No, I’m not sitting in the lobby of our local cancer center. I’m not in the car heading to treatment. I’ve not even scheduled the first treatment. As a matter of fact, I’ve not been diagnosed…yet.
Here’s my situation. For almost thirty years I’ve used tobacco in one form or another. From sneaking off to the park to smoke my first cigarette at age twelve, to”dipping” tobacco through high school, all the way to smoking a pack a day, this has been my life since I was fifteen. I can’t make excuses, or blame RJ Reynolds. I know the damage tobacco does, and I’ve chosen to smoke. What makes matters worse is that for the last twenty years I’ve worked in the medical field. You see, I’m a nurse and a paramedic. I know exactly what is happening in my body every time I light-up. I’ve watched people die, and I’ve watched people live with cigarette related diseases. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is worse.
Whoa, now wait a minute man. Is it twelve or is it fifteen? Your math is all wrong. Well, I smoked my first cigarette the summer between sixth and seventh grade. We (I can’t even remember the kid’s name) would run to Hook’s Drugs, spend seventy cents on a pack of Kools, and then hide on the trails of the local park and smoke. Of coarse, neither one of us could take the pack home, so we would smoke, and smoke, and smoke, trying to smoke as many as we could before going home. After seventh grade, we moved and my trip into the glamorous life of nausea, bad breath and washing the smell off in the creek, was over…until fifteen.
At fifteen, I began “dipping”. If you’re not from the good-ole south, then you might not know what dipping is. It’s where you take a finely cut tobacco, and “Put a pinch between the cheek and gum”. According to the commercial, it was that easy. What the commercial didn’t show was the constant spitting, or the persistent little spot of tobacco spit that hung on the end of my chin, or the stain on my car seat from where the spit-bottle turned over. I wasn’t good at it, and it showed. (Sorry to every girl I ever dated in high school). Later in high school, dipping began having to share my time with smoking. By college I was just smoking, and I have been since.
Fast forward through four kids and fifteen years into my second marriage, and here I am, feeling every light-up, every puff, and every flick of the ashes. If you’ve read my first post, then you know that I’ve made some drastic lifestyle changes due to a sky-rocketing blood pressure and high cholesterol. What I didn’t mention was the shortness of breath and occasional chest pain, that like most medical professionals, I chose to ignore. Well then, how do you run? Yes I am a runner. My wife laughs because I’m the only runner that she knows that has cigarette burns in my running socks. Running is easy, though. You just have to run slowly. I can run long distances, as long as I don’t get my heart rate up. When the heart is asked to put in a little overtime is when the problems begin. My wife talked me into going to a spin class that literally killed me. Obviously, it didn’t literally kill me, but I was pretty dizzy. It’s bad enough to have to show up at the fire station where I work and tell the guys that I went to a spin class, but to tell them that I only lasted fifteen minutes before I had to sit down, was death by a thousand snickers (firemen don’t actually snicker, they hoot and holler).
This brings us to where I am today. As you may know, in June, I gave up meat and challenged myself to run a fifty mile trail race. When I finally told the guys at work, their first question was “Why?” (actually the first question was “What the f**k?”). So, I began explaining how studies have shown the relationship between animal proteins and heart disease, diabetes type II and some forms of cancer. As I finished up my impromptu lecture I could tell that they were puzzled (mainly because “What the f**k?” was asked again). At that point I should have seen it coming. “Have you stopped smoking?” “Well…Um…No…Not Yet” So, here was the simply truth. I could give up meat because it may cause cancer, but not smoking. (Now I had to ask myself “What the f**k?”) So, in July, I quit smoking. Quit is an awfully strong word. “Fighting smoking” is a better phrase, because that is what I’m doing. It is a constant struggle. A struggle that I find myself losing on occasion. To see what a true hypocrite I am, you have to know that I smoked while writing this post (sorry Honey). It is what it is. I’m not proud of it, but that’s what happens. I fail, then I start again. I don’t know any other way and untill there is a magic cure, that is what I’ll do.
So why did I call this “Awaiting Chemo…”? I’m not trying to sound flippant about such a serious subject. As a matter of fact, I hope that if anyone reading this is or has gone through cancer treatment, that I haven’t offended you. I’m not trying to make light of the issue. I was a little concerned about the title of this post. Maybe it is too casual. Sounds like I’m waiting for a bus, or waiting in the car-pool line at my daughter’s school. The truth is that cancer scares me. Chemo scares me. RADIATION SCARES ME. When I say that I’m “awaiting chemo”, it just reminds me of the sad fact that cancer treatment is probably in my future. I hope not, but these are the choices I made. If I develop cancer one day, I can’t really be surprised about it. These are the choices I made. I can’t blame anyone else for the damage to my lungs. These are the choices I made. Now, I started to change the title because I sincerely feel for anyone struggling with this disease. I don’t want to come off as being insensitive. In the end, though, I decided to stay with it. You see, this blog is about dealing with my health. It’s about the journey of trying to turn my life around. It’s about being honest and accountable for the decisions I’ve made, and the ones I’ve yet to make. If the title seems insensitive then I am sorry, but at this point in my life I feel like I am “Awaiting Chemo…”.