2009-09-03

It doesn't hurt anybody

The one thing that totally amazes me is how many smokers will say "my smoking is not hurting anybody else, only me, and that's my choice". I noticed it again today on a forum that I sometimes read. So today I thought I would post a topic and ask the question whether they really do believe that their decision to smoke has absolutely no effect on other people.

I'm not a smoker and have never even thought of trying, not when I was younger and not now and doubt I ever will. As a non-smoker I can't really see the appeal of smoking to be honest, it doesn't look smart or sexy or sophisticated, it costs a lot of money and it smells incredibly bad. I've had situations where people would walk past my desk or you are in a lift with somebody and they've just gone for a smoke and boy that smell would just hit you in the face, it is the most foul smell ever. Their clothes, hair and breath smell incredibly bad even long after they've gone for a smoke. And why you would want to fill your lungs with smoke is really beyond me, but perhaps I just don't "get" it, which is fine by me. But anyway. We all make decisions and just as I choose not to smoke, I get that some people choose to start smoking for whatever reason.

What I'm curious about is when people say "It's not hurting anybody else, only me, and that's my choice". I'm curious if you ever had to become really really ill as a direct result of your smoking, would you still be happy with your decision? If you ever became that ill, would you wish you made a different choice? Would you still be happy with your choice if you i.e. developed cancer (as a direct result of your smoking) and felt incredibly sick because of the chemo and radiation and had to rely on your family and even your kids to be strong for you and to help you do things you could do before, but can't do anymore, will you still believe that your smoking is not "hurting anybody"? If they had to tell you that you won't have long to live (as they recently did with a lady in her early 50s whom I worked with), would you still be happy with your choice knowing you won't get to see your grandchildren and do you think that as your family and kids spend your last few weeks with you and then afterwards have to try and pick up the pieces and come to terms with what happened, would you still believe that your smoking didn't "hurt" them? I know that this lady feels devastated she won't get to see her grandkids, but she can't change the situation, she can't fix it anymore.

My grandmother was a smoker and she died (from what I remember) of organ failure. When her doctor initially told her to stop smoking, she wasn't interested. Many years later my grandfather (her husband) who was not a smoker but exposed to her smoking got lung cancer and even though I was very young still, I vividly remember him becoming incredibly depressed because he used to walk around 15km a day and suddenly walking from one room to the other became this huge effort. He went from being a very independent person to somebody who needed help with the most basic things. I vividly remember him lying in hospital heavily sedated and under morphine, but that wasn't enough to offer sufficient pain relief. I remember him lying there groaning because it was so painful and my step-grandmother holding his hand which felt really really cold (due to lack of circulation) saying in this really sad voice "he's going to die" and when the doctor told us they couldn't do anything more for my grandfather. It was incredibly hard, devastating, heartbreaking. So even though my grandmother possibly had the opinion that her smoking wasn't hurting anybody, it did, it did when she died and it did when my grandfather had to go through cancer and when he died in the end. They never saw us getting married and having kids. We miss that they were never part of that.

Another person I know was a smoker all his life and where is he today? He got a stroke leaving him completely unable to do anything for himself and finally when his wife couldn't cope anymore because it was just so incredibly exhausting, emotionally draining she had no choice but to put him into a place of care. Even though he said all his life that his smoking wasn't hurting anybody, it was hurting his wife and kids like you can't believe, seeing him like this, realising he will never be the same. He finally got a heart attack and died. But he missed out on his one son's wedding, He will miss out on his grandkids and it is hurting his family that he is not there (and knowing that it is something that could have been avoided).

On the 11th of September, we would've been through cancer treatment the past 2 and a third years with Bianca (which was not caused as a result of smoking by the way). Even though she was the one who was sick, it affected every single one of us. It has been the longest and most challenging 2 and a third years of our lives, the most exhausting thing we've ever done. Treatment for lung cancer as an example is so much more intense than it was for Bianca's leukemia treatment, it is way way harder to treat. It is more likely to spread and is much more aggressive, with a much lower success rate. Apart from chemotherapy, you would likely deal with radiotherapy and likely surgery too - all of this have immediate and long-term side effects and Bianca who has had cancer now, will always be at a risk of having her cancer come back or even developing a new cancer. She will be monitored until she is an adult. I've read blogs of parents and families who had to go through weeks of waiting as they waited for their kids and families to die and it is heartbreaking reading about their fears, their heartbreak, the devastation as they watch their kids or families struggle through those last moments, experiencing extreme pain and struggling to breath. And then it takes months and years for them to pick up the pieces. I've had many days sobbing and crying as I read their blog entries.

I never ever wish cancer on anybody. For us we never thought we would be one of those families having to deal with cancer, because "it always happens to other people". It didn't offer any warning, it was sudden and we didn't even have the luxury of time to really come to terms with what happened. Treatment had to start straightaway, I had a job offer and was going to start work really soon, but I had to give it up and we have not been able to have a second income the past two and a third years. I've had to watch my child struggle through getting things like nose tubes inserted into her nose as she wasn't gaining weight as she should have and needed the extra nutrition, I've had to watch her struggle as we had to hold her down for that and hold her down for her chemo injections into her legs. I remember the fear as they discussed the possibility of ICU as a result of a viral infection she developed. I remember waking up that first morning thinking it was a bad dream just to realise with this sinking feeling that it was very very real and there were no short-cuts, no easy way out, it was jump and swim. Many others have it way harder than we have, many others suffer the side-effects much more than we did and many others don't ever see the end of treatment because their treatment is simply not successful.

So if you know that your smoking can cause things like cancer, do you really want to deliberately risk going through that (or do you simply believe it will never happen to you)? Do you really want to deliberately risk putting your families and kids through that? If you were ever so unfortunate to go through cancer which happened as a direct result of smoking and could have been avoided and put yourself and your families and kids through months and years of dealing with things like chemo and radiation and all the other things that go along with it, would you still honestly believe that your smoking never hurt anybody?

And on a final note, please take the time to read these:

Dead Serious
Face of anti-smoking campaign hopes to warn others
Tributes to TV's Adrian

1 comment:

theclam said...

This is a truly core rocking post, cos it is so true and so honest.

xxx