Mother’s Day, Worth Hanging Around For

 

I make my home in upstate New York, but right now I’m in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m here visiting my parents, who moved down here from upstate New York two years ago. There are several reasons for their move, not the least of which is that ice doesn’t fall from the sky here (property taxes also played a role).

My father got a job before moving down here (my mother never did), but he retired at the end of last year. Their plans were to travel the country. My father brags that he’s seen all 50 states, and he wanted my mother to see them too. I’m fairly sure their plans included a road trip to Alaska. There’s a great big country out there, and the plan was, unshackled from jobs and kids, to take in as much as they could.

Those plans had a big wrench thrown into them a couple of weeks ago. My mother had been suffering from bronchitis, and, after a few days of it not responding to antibiotics, she went to the emergency room. That bronchitis had progressed to pneumonia but, in the process of discovering that, they found something the size of a golf ball in my mother’s lung.

That “something” turns out to be cancer. It’s a specific form of lung cancer called small-cell carcinoma. If you’ve never heard of it (it’s okay, I never had either), it’s very aggressive, and the three-year survival rate is only 10 to 15 percent. It’s metastasized and spread to her lymph nodes and her spine. She’s hoarse when she speaks because the cancer in her lungs is pressing on her vocal cords.

They’ve already given her radiation, and now she’s on her second round of chemotherapy—where they pump poison into your body with the hopes that the poison kills the cancer before it kills the patient.

So, I’m down here visiting my parents. The reason is obvious, right? Do I really need to say why? I’m down here because if this is my mother’s last Mother’s Day I’m damn sure going to be here for it.

If you’re curious how I’m taking this all, I’m rather stoic about the whole thing. I planned ahead. The most reliable predictor of lifespan is your parents’ lifespan and so, based on family history and the fact that both my parents are smokers, I began preparing myself mentally and emotionally about 15 years ago for the fact that my parents weren’t going to live a long time.

But … this is so quick. My mother will turn 62 in July. My parents have only just retired. They’re just getting started — 62 isn’t even that old. A woman born in 1953 has a life expectancy north of 70. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This is happening too soon…

At this point, you may want to extend to me your sympathies. I appreciate it, but I don’t need them, and that’s not why I’m writing this. I’ll ask for something else instead.

I am the last person on Earth to tell a person how to live their life. I don’t believe in doing that, and I don’t believe in punishing people for doing something that I disagree with, no matter how strongly I oppose it.

Small-cell carcinoma doesn’t just happen. It isn’t getting struck by lightning. You don’t get it because you’re unlucky. Small-cell carcinoma is a smoker’s disease. You get it from smoking. My parents have been smokers for 40 years. They’re still smokers.

There isn’t a fatalism involved here. If you’re a smoker, you can prevent this by quitting. Again, I don’t want to tell anybody how to live their life. When I see my parents light up, I have the strong inclination to slap the cigarettes out of their mouths. But I don’t, because it’s their choice, not mine. And, for them, the die is already cast.

Instead of your sympathies about the plight of my family, I just ask this: If you smoke, think about the damage you’re doing to yourself. But if that doesn’t move you, think about how you’re setting yourself up to check out early. Think about how much shorter your retirement will be. Think about the Mother’s Days you’re going to miss and the impact that’ll have on your children. And maybe consider hanging around for awhile.

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  1. Limestone Cowboy Coolidge
    Limestone Cowboy
    @LimestoneCowboy

    Hi Fred,

    I know you haven’t asked for sympathy or prayers, and that you don’t need them, but you have mine anyway. My mother passed away a couple of years back at 90, and even now, there’s a hole in my life, felt especially on Mothers Day. She was a tough old bird (WW2 Brit, RAF WAAF).  She had a mercifully short illness, dying with full mental awareness.

    All the best for you and your parents, whether that’s a recovery or a peaceful passing.

    LC.

    • #1
  2. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Before all the prayers come rolling in around here, let me give smokers some practical advice. I smoked 10 cigarettes a day but easily quit by cutting out one or two daily for less than a week- no cold turkey. It was easy.

    I would also add that the most insidious killer is heart disease and that is most often affected by obesity. I’d rather smoke 3 packs a day than deal with that.

    • #2
  3. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Fred,   I am praying for your Mama, and for your dad and you.

    • #3
  4. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    As soon as I left for college, my mama was able to give up smoking (no coincidence there, I’m sure…)

    All our surviving close relatives have either kicked the habit entirely or taken up vaping instead.

    • #4
  5. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    I’ll repeat my comment from an earlier thread:

    As far as my experience?

    Well, I was a smoker for over 30 years, and since I started in my early teens, that means I smoked for over two-thirds of my life. I’ve tried every method to quit- cold turkey, patches, gum, etc., but I always went back to cigarettes.

    Once I started vaping, I lost any craving for cigarettes, almost immediately. My strong suspicion  is that these health “concerns” have less to do with protecting the children and more about the loss of tax revenue on the 2-3 packs of smokes I used to burn through everyday.

    But that is just me; I tend to be cynical sometimes.

    If you are trying to quit, or know someone who wants to (or needs to) look into vaping. Research it yourself and you’ll find the health risks are in no way comparable to smoking. But believe me, it is so much more effective than  any other method I have tried.

    And Fred. a basic vaping starter kit is about 65$. It would make a good Father’s Day gift.

    • #5
  6. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Just darn, Fred. Good reasons for people to quit smoking. I know I live in the heart of tobacco country, but it is really a nasty habit.

    • #6
  7. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Fred,

    No sympathy, as requested…Thoughts and prayers for peace and joy as you all share stories and are present with each other…Celebrate the dickens out of this Mother’s Day…(I’m glad you can! This will be the first without mine.)

    • #7
  8. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Dear Fred . . . .  we’re never ready to be orphans.  I’m 68 and dread losing my 93 year-old mother.

    I admire your forward-leaning, positive approach as a response to your parent’s short life expectancy.   It’s so human to sink into sorrow and regret at times like this.   Wishing you comfort and strength during this rough passage.

    • #8
  9. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    EThompson:Before all the prayers come rolling in around here, let me give smokers some practical advice. I smoked 10 cigarettes a day but easily quit by cutting out one per day for less than a week- no cold turkey. It was easy.

    I would also add that the most insidious killer is heart disease and that is most often affected by obesity. I’d rather smoke 3 packs a day than deal with that.

    Great to hear this. You have an iron will and are very goal oriented so this doesn’t surprise me.

    • #9
  10. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    What a great day to be thankful. It is Mom’s Day here already. Carnations are the flowers of choice. Blessings on you Fred.

    • #10
  11. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    My mother can’t have flowers. They can carry germs and bacteria and fungus. She doesn’t really have an immune system right now bc of the chemo.

    • #11
  12. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    I’ll send my prayers and warm thoughts instead of flowers.

    You have my sympathy even though you didn’t ask for it. We in the South are like that. It’s bred into us. Come down, stay a spell.

    • #12
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Praying for your family and you, Fred.

    • #13
  14. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Since you specifically asked for no condolences or sympathy, I’ll think of a smoker who might benefit from this reflection. Bless you, Fred.

    • #14
  15. Dave Carter Podcaster
    Dave Carter
    @DaveCarter

    Of course, your mother has one advantage, which in its own way is a gift — namely, having a fantastic son.  Though unsolicited, Shelley and I will be keeping you and yours in our prayers, my friend.

    • #15
  16. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @WardRobles

    Please accept my condolences and compliments on a compelling post. In a way we are all on fire, but we can chose to burn little more slowly by not lighting ourselves up. I never met either of my grandfathers, who were both smokers. Their brothers who chose not to smoke lived to their mid eighties. Not smoking is the single best health choice we can make.

    • #16
  17. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    I’m sorry to hear this Fred.  It’s not going to be a party obviously, but I hope you and your mother can enjoy what time you have left together.

    • #17
  18. user_75648 Thatcher
    user_75648
    @JohnHendrix

    You and yours are in my prayers.

    May everyone have the best possible outcome, under the circumstances.

    • #18
  19. shelby_forthright Member
    shelby_forthright
    @spacemanspiff

    An omnipresent sense of our mortality can also be a gift. No condolences from me, Fred. It’s way too soon for that. I pray for laughter and humor in the most unexpected of moments for you and family. I’m not talking about being brave in the face of a terrible disease. It isn’t always easy but it is a matter of perspective. Every day we get to tell those close to us that we love them is a gift. You are so blessed, Fred.

    • #19
  20. Dave Member
    Dave
    @DaveL

    Praying for your mom, you and your dad.  I will use your post to reinvigorate my efforts to get my wife, who turns 60 next month, to quit smoking. She has tried the patches, and gum to no avail.  She wants to quit, but can never seem to turn the corner.

    • #20
  21. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Our prayers go out to you and your mom on this Mother’s Day.

    • #21
  22. GadgetGal Thatcher
    GadgetGal
    @GadgetGal

    I will add my prayers and best wishes for you and your family to the many already posted here.  Thank you for using these sad circumstances to remind us of the potentially terrible consequences of smoking.  One of my angriest moments I can remember took place the afternoon I found my then-15-year-old son smoking with his friends.  Sixteen years later and he is still unable to quit despite multiple attempts.

    You are wise to withhold lectures and comments to your parents. I have never found them to be a helpful motivator and they just detract from the important stuff:  loving your parents and enjoying spending time with them.  Take care and enjoy these precious days.

    • #22
  23. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Dave L:…I will use your post to reinvigorate my efforts to get my wife, who turns 60 next month, to quit smoking. She has tried the patches, and gum to no avail. She wants to quit, but can never seem to turn the corner.

    Has she tried other smoking cessation aids?

    Whatever works…

    • #23
  24. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    Fred, I can’t help but offer my sympathy, whether or not requested.

    • #24
  25. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    I echo Claire and others. And now I am going to give you my opinions on high lethality cancers and care:
    1. Consult the palliative care team now. Not because her death is imminent but so you have a Medical team focused on helping her do the things she wants to do before her time to go. Research in other lethal lung cancers showed patients lived 3 months longer with better quality of life and functioning if they got palliative care involved early. PM me and I”m happy to chat with you or your parents about it and connect them with someone.

    2. It does make a difference to reduce or quit smoking now. Mostly in the symptoms associated with the disease

    3. Is she in a clinical trial or being treated as part of a clinical trial protocol? Genetics can help with targeting treatment in lung cancer.

    • #25
  26. user_6236 Member
    user_6236
    @JimChase

    Adding my voice to the others here expressing thoughts and especially prayers. As the son of a smoker, I think about this all the time.

    All the best, Fred.

    • #26
  27. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    PsychLynne:1. Consult the palliative care team now. Not because her death is imminent but so you have a Medical team focused on helping her do the things she wants to do before her time to go.

    Definitely!

    I suspect Fred’s already all over this goal. Even so, I wanted to express my enthusiasm for it.

    • #27
  28. oleneo65 Coolidge
    oleneo65
    @oleneo65

    Fred,

    My prayers and thoughts of comfort for your Mom, Dad, you, and other members of the Cole family.

    Thank you for sharing this important moment in your life. It is one most reading Ricochet will or have face/d. There are life lessons these moments provide. Your advice to smokers is wise.

    • #28
  29. GadgetGal Thatcher
    GadgetGal
    @GadgetGal

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    PsychLynne:1. Consult the palliative care team now. Not because her death is imminent but so you have a Medical team focused on helping her do the things she wants to do before her time to go.

    Definitely!

    I suspect Fred’s already all over this goal. Even so, I wanted to express my enthusiasm for it.

    Ditto.  I have seen first hand how a palliative care team can transform patient and family fears and feelings of helplessness that so often accompany the process of dying.

    • #29
  30. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    Fred,

    I lost my otherwise very healthy 72-year-young Father to cancer almost 6 years ago. It all happened in a few months. I still miss him very much, remembering his wisdom and love each day.

    We know our parents won’t live forever but when they pass before their time it’s painful.

    Your family are in my thoughts.

    • #30
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