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. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Best wishes to your mom, Fred. She’s got a good son.

    • #31
  2. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    Fred, thank you for writing out of the care in your heart.

    It’s so good that you are all together there, I’m sure having you there helps your mother’s spirit.  I pray for her comfort, and strength for your dad.

    • #32
  3. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    Fred I’m going to print your message and ask my 23 year old son to read it, I don’t think I’ve ever read a more effective request to do the right thing and stop this horrible vice. My heart goes out to you; my mother passed at age 64 from the complications of diabetes and her loss is felt at least a couple times a week even years later. Especially today. No one should be so selfish as to think their health and companionship does not have an effect on those that love them.

    • #33
  4. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Fred,my prayers are with your parents and you. Your advice is so spot on. My father died of emphysema at the age of 68. He suffered for nearly ten years slowly suffocating everyday. I my self was a hevy smoker but quit cold turkey about 35 years ago. I have no doubt that I would be dead if I had not quit. It bothers me to no end about the legalization of pot. Both lungs and minds are abused it seems to me. May God be with the Coles.

    • #34
  5. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    Fred,

    Tell your mother you lover her…every day.  You don’t know which will be the last time you get to tell her.

    My mother passed away this last March 30, a Monday.  I had called her the day before.  The normal Sunday call.  I reminded her that her 89th birthday was Tuesday and that I would call her then, too.  I told her I loved her.  I never got the chance to tell her again.

    Tell your dad, too.

    • #35
  6. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Fred, I lost my dad at age 66, a smoker for as long as I can remember. I also was a smoker, I was born addicted as my mother smoked as well. But 8 years ago my daughter started crying when I left my bed to crawl out to the balcony to have a cigarette. I had pneumonia, it was Dec. and snowing. She begged me to quit and I promised her I would if she would be with me for 24/7 the first 10 days. She kept her promise giving me 10 days of support. There is a web site where you can learn how to plan your quit, called

    http://whyquit.com/

    After smoking for 53 years, I quit without smoking aids, and your parents can do this also. On the 10th day of my quit, my lovely daughter, took me to dinner to cerebrate the 10 days and cut me loose. “You’re on your own now mom.” she says.

    http://whyquit.com/welcome.html

    • #36
  7. AQ Member
    AQ
    @AQ

    Kay, I used the same web site to quit after 40 years of smoking! This August 17th will be my 10th year smoke free!

    I know my risk of lung cancer is still very high and my heart goes out to all who suffer from this terrible disease — and their heartbroken families. My prayers are with all of you, Fred.

    • #37
  8. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    AQ:Kay, I used the same web site to quit after 40 years of smoking!This August 17th will be my 10th year smoke free!

    I know my risk of lung cancer is still very high and my heart goes out to all who suffer from this terrible disease — and their heartbroken families.My prayers are with all of you, Fred.

    Joel blesses you, just be sure you keep recommending his site to anyone who will listen and wants to quit. My 8th anniversary was last Dec. 24th. My daughter mentioned to my PCP that I was quitting “cold turkey” (which isn’t as bad as it sounds) and he told her, “Well, she won’t make it.” I had printed out a lot of stuff, and lived Joel’s advice like a religion, and I made the first 72 hours, then the rest was easy riding. Mostly. I had a quit buddy from a support group and we made it to our 9th month, and she gave in. But her husband refused to quit with her, so she had a harder time.

    Fred, your parents could be very supportive of each other if they quit together.

    • #38
  9. user_32335 Member
    user_32335
    @BillWalsh

    Fred,

    You have my sympathy and hopes for her recovery, and that she has a good death whenever it comes (may be it be far off). I lost my own mother to cancer just shortly after her sixty-first birthday. She’d had versions of it for years, and so I probably lucked out, mental-preparation-wise. Sounds like you need no advice, and are staying close, so I’ve nothing to offer but prayers and well-wishes for all of you. Good luck.

    • #39
  10. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @WardRobles

    This may or may not be a good aid to quitting to others, but my wife helped her mother quit smoking years ago by buying her a trophy when she decided to quit with the inscription “Jane Pine, Non-Smoker Since May 10, 2002.” Jane said that she even picked up her car keys to run to the convenience store for a pack, saw the trophy, and put the keys back down. Not too much later she stopped being even tempted.

    • #40
  11. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Ward Robles:This may or may not be a good aid to quitting to others, but my wife helped her mother quit smoking years ago by buying her a trophy when she decided to quit with the inscription “Jane Pine, Non-Smoker Since May 10, 2002.” Jane said that she even picked up her car keys to run to the convenience store for a pack, saw the trophy, and put the keys back down. Not too much later she stopped being even tempted.

    Rewards help, my daughter on my first day, cleaned my apt, got rid of all the ashtrays, and took me out to breakfast. I live in a small town and she told everybody “today” was my first day of quit. When I made 72 hours, she took me to lunch and bought me a lovely CD of relaxing music. On day 10, a big dinner out, and a trip to Borders. And the town’s people would also encourage me. How many days Kay?

    The cravings during the first  72 hours only last about 3 minutes, and they come about 6-8 times a day. So your wanting to climb walls for a cig adds up to 18-24 minutes out of a day and is manageable. Its helpful to know exactly what is happening to your body when you make a quit, which is why finding out about it from whyquit.com is such a benefit.

    • #41
  12. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    When I stop smoking 35 years ago I turned the equation around. I wasn’t quitting smoking, I was not starting again no matter what. Worked for me.

    • #42
  13. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    PHCheese:When I stop smoking 35 years ago I turned the equation around. I wasn’t quitting smoking, I was not starting again no matter what. Worked for me.

    All of us don’t have that kind of will power. I needed someone standing by and helping me stay the path.

    • #43
  14. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Kay,

    You are wise to realize you needed help. We all have different strengths. It amazes me how the stronger the person the weaker they are in one area. They have huge blind spots.

    • #44
  15. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Kay, that was hardly the first time I tried to quit.Also I had help. Mrs Cheese quit with me. We drank a lot the first year. She started back after a year and smoked for about six months and quit again for the last 33 or so years. I talk about changing the equation because that is what worked for me. Whatever works is the way to quit. My best friend smoked on the day he died from lung cancer 20 years ago.

    • #45
  16. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    PHCheese:Kay, that was hardly the first time I tried to quit.Also I had help. Mrs Cheese quit with me. We drank a lot the first year. She started back after a year and smoked for about six months and quit again for the last 33 or so years. I talk about changing the equation because that is what worked for me. Whatever works is the way to quit. My best friend smoked on the day he died from lung cancer 20 years ago.

    I had been trying to quit for many years before I did, using all the gums, pill, aids, etc. But reading and understanding what nicotine was doing to me on whyquit.com, and understanding exactly what my body changes would be by quitting, let me get a good grip on what was taking place. Also taking it on a daily basis, “I only need to quit today.” was my daily thought.

    • #46
  17. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Sad about your friend PHCheese. So many of my family and friends have died from heart attacks, COPD, or lung cancer, from smoking.

    • #47
  18. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Kay, I wish I had that website 35 years ago. Heck I wish I had the internet 35 years ago.

    • #48
  19. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    PHCheese:Kay, I wish I had that website 35 years ago. Heck I wish I had the internet 35 years ago.

    35 years ago I was 42 years old and had managed to stop smoking for 1.8 years. But I wanted a cigarette constantly, it was never out of my mind. I didn’t realize that nicotine, drop for drop, is more addictive than cocaine or heroin, and harder to kick. One Halloween night after about 20 4-H kids had a party in my horse barn, with only 1 mother helping control those kids, cold enough for them to have ice dripping off their chins from apple dunking, the mother offered me a cigarette. All the kids were gone, and she said, “Kay, you look like you could use a cigarette.” I took it thinking that one wouldn’t hurt me, after all, I didn’t really smoke anymore. Within 2 weeks I was back to 2 packs a day. Another 27 years before I quit.

    • #49
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