As some of you already know my Mom has been diagnosed with, at the least, serious lung disease and at the worst, lung cancer. Since she became ill everyone has asked me the same question: "What can I do to help?" and to most of you I give the same answer, "Pray, send healing thoughts/energy, whatever you believe. Thank you."
Yet some of you have gotten a different response, one which I'm sure makes you uncomfortable and if so I'm sorry...but to the smokers in my life, the people I love who are struggling with nicotine addiction I say this:
QUIT. Now. Please. This is what you can do for me, for your family, for your friends, but most especially, for your CHILDREN. Please, please don't make your children go through what I'm experiencing now. Don't let them sit with you in waiting rooms and doctors offices, waiting for a prognosis, praying that it will be good news. Don't allow your children to see you lose 20 pounds in two months, coughing to the point of breathlesness. Please, when your children beg you to quit, as they inevitably will, as I did from the time I was old enough to realize that it was bad for you, hug them, assure them that you'll quit, and let them see you DO IT. Do everything you can to ensure that you are there to see your grandchildren born, graduate college, marry, and perhaps even have children of their own. My daughter is getting married three weeks from today and I honestly don't know if my Mom will be at the wedding, if she will need surgery or treatment before then, if she'll be feeling too weak to attend what will be an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. I hate cigarettes for that, I despise them for possibly robbing me of time with my Mother, I am infuriated with nicotine for what it has done to our family, and yeah, I'm a little bit angry with her for not quitting, for not caring enough about herself, or at the very least not caring enough about ME.
And for those of you who are undoubtedly thinking, "oh, Michele, you have no idea how hard it is, you've never done it!" I say, you're right. I don't know. I have never smoked. I can only imagine how difficult it must be. I have my own vices, I'm not perfect by any means, but by the grace of God/dess I have never become addicted to nicotine. But you know what? As hard as it may be to quit, nothing, absolutely nothing can be as difficult as looking at your loved ones faces as they experience the pain, the shock, the horror, the overwhelming grief at the thought, at the possibility of losing YOU to an illness that could have been prevented.
I don't know what the future holds for my Mother, for our family, but if I have any regrets it is that I didn't DRAG her to the doctor, kicking and screaming, years ago when I noticed her coughing more. She assured us that she was getting regular check-ups and all was well, but clearly this was not the truth. I should have pushed, I should have insisted. As angry as she used to get at me for nagging her, hiding her ciggies, as upset as she used to be...it would have been worth it if it had prevented this moment right now.
Tomorrow, May 31st is World No Tobacco Day. Please take this opportunity to kick the butt on smoking. I promise that I myself will help you any way I can, but don't do it for me; if you can't do it simply for yourself, please, please do it for your children.