Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

If She Could Only Have Seen What I Saw

I was driving through the city, and while at a red light, I looked around the intersection, and in the car immediate to my left, in the turn lane, was a woman in a very fancy car.  She was lighting a new cigarette, with the one that she was just finishing.

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Everyone has seen this method of lighting a cigarette at one time or another.  It is called “chain smoking.”  It is more than just about an inconvenience of not having a lighter or a match.  It is just another example of how addicting and controlling ANY kind of tobacco/vapor product is.

But as the light remained red for a longer time than anticipated, I glanced back over at her car.  I saw how bad her smoking habit really was.  She literally was inhaling and exhaling her cigarette, unlike those who normally inhale and exhale, hold the cigarette aside for all of us to inhale the second hand poison.  She was actually breathing with her cigarette.  I have never seen this extreme in my life.  And it definitely cannot be attributed to her trying to get as much inhaled cancer as she can for her money.  Smoking is not about getting your money’s worth, it is about addiction and compulsion.

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I immediately begin to think about something my father said to me, “had I known I would end up with cancer, and be told I was going to die from lung cancer, I would never have started.”  Famous last words from someone who smoked for over fifty years.  My father passed away from lung cancer last May.  But it was what was discovered prior to his passing, that was even more disappointing.  I say disappointing and not “shocking” because nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to the control that tobacco and the tobacco companies put into their products to get a person addicted.  And when a business like this only cares about profit, face it, a healthy person does not keep tobacco in business.

I cannot count how many times my father had tried to quit smoking.  I do know that he tried everything from hypnosis, to the patch, to the gum.  Even when believing it was all about the holding an object in the hand, and placing it in the mouth, he could not even fix the trick with carrots.  He would eventually find his way back to the pack.

Oddly enough, just a couple of years ago, he had been diagnosed with emphysema.  But the pulmonologist told him, that there was the chance that my father could reduce the effects if he quit smoking.  Unfortunately, my father could not.  He tried.  And I do not blame him for continuing.  I blame the tobacco company.  They know what they are doing with the products they sell.

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But then the following year, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and actually had half of his lung removed, everyone thought, including my father, that this would finally be the moment that he would quit smoking as his doctor strongly recommended.  While my father was in the hospital recovering, family went through a painstaking process of de-smoking his house.  You know that smell when you walk into someone’s house who is a smoker.  It is a powerful smell, that non-smokers are definitely sensitive to, but also, so are former smokers.  It was hoped that by being in the hospital for a week, obviously not being able to have a cigarette, the urge would be gone, or at least not as bad.  The doctors would prescribes meds for him to help get him by the rest of the withdrawal.

As time went on, and into the new year last year, my father’s cancer got worse instead of better.  My father went from stage 1 cancer and just surgery, to doing chemo preventatively, to being full blown stage 4 following radiation.  In late February my father was told he was terminal.

As we prepared for my father’s eventual passing, my brother began to get things in order with our father’s house.  It was during this time, that my brother made a very disappointing discovery.  My father had become very good at hiding his habit, which he obviously continued until his final admission into the hospital.  And further discussions with his home care staff, we would find out that he was indeed still smoking.

Getting back to the driver next to me, she appeared to be close to my age and I began to think how sad it was that she was clearly going to end up worse than my father.  At least with him, I never saw him light one cigarette after another or inhale them like she was.

But I also could not help recalling another time, I tried to help a friend quit smoking.  She did not seem like it was going to be a big problem, a self-proclaimed “social smoker.”  Working a ten hour day and not being able to smoke during that time, pretty much supported that thought, until I saw otherwise.

As mentioned, she did not smoke during working hours, so that amounted to approximately 10 hours a day.  But as we soon found out, while purchasing “the patch” for her, she was going to be purchasing the wrong strength because she was completely unaware of how much she actually smoked.  I knew she purchased a pack of cigarettes nearly every other day, close to every day.  And she did not share her cigarettes with anyone, so only she was smoking all of them.

After a conversation, we discovered how many her “3 or 4” a day actually turned out to be:

2 back to back after waking in the morning

1 on the way into work

none during the work hours

2 back to back right after work

1 just prior to supper

1 right after supper

1 an hour later

1 another hour later

2 back to back just before going to bed

That is what we were able to track.  Then there were the social situations.  With her, the addiction actually got to a compulsion by making her “make up” for lost time not smoking.  While she was successful in quitting for eight years, she resumed.

Today, with all the regulations and information on tobacco use, the tobacco companies still do not care that they are knowingly killing people with this addiction.  However now, to deal with all the tougher rules, “vaping” is now being pushed as a safer alternative to lit cigarettes which makes about as much sense as saying a 22-caliber bullet is less lethal than an armor-piercing shell.  The addictive additives are still in the product.  And as someone who not only lost a relative to lung cancer, but I have pulmonary issues myself because of damage from my cancer treatments, you are only supposed to inhale oxygen into your lungs.  Not water.  Not food.  Not auto exhaust or paint fumes.  And definitely not vapor (vapor is a gaseous form of water).

Tobacco companies cannot advertise their products on television or radio because of how deadly they are.  But the new electronic cigarettes are not regulated.  So before they can be regulated for the lethal results, you cannot listen to a radio station without hearing at least once an hour, an advertisement claiming reasons you should be vaping… made in the USA, tastes like the flavors they are advertised such as favorite candies and fruits.  The companies want you to believe there is no harm from their products just like their lit tobacco products.

Tell that to my dad.  I could not convince him.

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