Sunday, October 3, 2010

If you continue to smoke, then live with no regrets if you develop a horrible disease

I quit smoking because I had cancer at a young age and knew I was at high risk for a reocurrence for the rest of my life. If the cancer ever came back, I didn't want to wonder if it was caused by my smoking. I know the answer to that question now, since in August, I was diagnosed with cancer again. While I don't know why it reoccurred, I know it wasn't from smoking. Some may ask if I don't  regret giving up  something I enjoyed since the cancer came back anyway. Again, I know the answer is NO. Quitting tobacco is the best thing I could have done for my health. If I hadn't quit, the cancer might have come back sooner, be more aggressive and may have spread to vital organs by the time it was found. Yet others may feel differently, like the writer, Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens was notorious for his hard drinking and heavy smoking and now he has throat cancer, most likely due to his excessive lifestyle and a genetic predisposition. Yet he feels no regrets that his lifestyle led to a fatal disease. Lung cancer claimed Morton Downey Jr. and was caused by his smoking. He used to rant on his TV program about "health nazi's" trying to get smokers to stop and was a member of the National Smokers Alliance, yet when he developed cancer, he did a complete about-face about smoking and became a strong anti-smoking advocate until his death.

Smoking is like playing Russian roulette except with a 50/50 chance of dying from your smoking. But I don't think the problem with smoking is that you may die too young, it is that you may live too long from the effects of smoking. With the advances in health technologies, the medical profession can keep you alive for a very long time. I'm not afraid to die, but I am afraid of suffering from a long term disability caused by smoking.

But knowing the negative consequences of smoking is often not enough to get us to quit, since we tend to avoid thinking about them. We have every defensive mechanism in place to deny that it will ever happen to us.We all know the dangers of smoking yet we always think that cancer (heart disease, COPD, stroke etc) will happen to the other guy yet, as smokers, we are the other guy. If you continue to smoke, imagine what your life would be, if you were to develop your worst nightmare disease. If like Hitchens, you would have no regrets, then smoke and stop feeling guilty over something you enjoy. But if like Downey, you would do anything to have your health back and it's something that you're doing to yourself, then start the process to become tobacco free.

The old health paradigm was that we got old, got a disease and died. But the new paradigm is that we can live a long healthy life, free of disease. Do you want a short life and a long death, or a long life and a short death? Smoking will give you the former and quitting gives you a good chance of the latter.

So far, my diagnosis looks positive. It appears that the cancer was found early. I've had major surgery to remove the tumor and adjuvant chemotherapy is being recommended. If I had not stopped smoking, I would have always regretted it because I would have blamed myself for the cancer returning. So I will continue my crusade to help others through the quitting process--it's not easy but one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

1 comment:

Jeff said...


Thanks so much for your dedication to helping smokers quit and stay quit. After talking to a friend at the Naval Hospital in 29 Palms, your name came up and I found your blog. You are amazing!

We talked about 18 months ago on the subject of having support group meetings in the hi-desert area. Just so you know, we are thriving and keep getting new members into our group. We also have two meetings a week in 29 Palms and Yucca Valley.

In my case, I smoked for 43 years since the age of nine, and wanted to quit for over 17 years. Though my desire to waned from time to time, all the nicotine replacement products and drugs, with education, always helped me to quit. But I never got more than 10 days before I would find a reason to smoke. With my last quit, I found it necessary to get involved in action as part of my program, and become an integral part of a support group. Like anything else I do, I go overboard, and besides our two meetings locally, I attend meetings on the telephone and the internet, and am finding people from around the world who want the freedom from nicotine I now enjoy.

Thank you so much for your "crusade" in this deadly disease, and I look forward to talking to you again sometime.

19 months and counting!

Jeff Meads