Two Teens And Their Mama: The Great American Smokeout - Elizabeth's Story

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Great American Smokeout - Elizabeth's Story


Today is the 2014 Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society to encourage smokers to make a plan to quit, or decide in advance and stop smoking on this day.

I tried smoking once when I was 16, but it made me nauseous.  Since I'm not a smoker, I have no right asking anyone to stop.  That is a personal decision, and I can only imagine how difficult it is to quit.

Instead, I'd like to share Elizabeth's story.

Elizabeth is my mother in law, a strong, amazing woman that I've written about before, who passed away in February.  She started smoking in the 1940's when she was 20. Back then almost everybody she knew smoked, and her cigarette of choice was unfiltered Pall Mall's. So many of my memories of her include a cigarette in her hand.

Most of his life, my hubby tried to get her to quit.  He hated that she smoked, and he used every argument he could to plead his case.  She would look him right in the eye and say, "as long as the doctor says I'm healthy, I don't have a reason to quit."

And for a really long time, she was remarkably healthy.  Until the day she suffered a stroke. In the hospital, her doctor of many years told her she needed to stop smoking immediately. She shrugged, said okay, and never picked up another cigarette again.

My husband was surprisingly angry.  He couldn't understand why she hadn't quit sooner, if it was so easy for her.  She replied that the doctor had finally told her she wasn't healthy, so that was that.  Very matter of fact, my mother in law.

Unfortunately, it was too late.  Shortly after quitting, Elizabeth was diagnosed with emphysema, and tests showed that a very large portion of her lungs were irreparably damaged. She was prescribed oxygen, but she hated wearing it.  I'm pretty sure that as soon as we walked out the door, the oxygen mask came off.  Very quickly she went from vibrant and healthy, to being unable to walk more than a few feet without having to sit down and catch her breath.  


She became very reclusive.  Where she once loved to accompany us on trips to the beach, or visit the symphony or a musical, all she could manage to do now was sit in bed and read. She was very limited on what activities she could do with the boys, and they didn't understand.

Within a few years she developed dementia, and she spent the last three years of her life bed ridden, stuck wearing the dreaded oxygen twenty four hours a day.

Elizabeth lived to be 87, and I cannot say with certainty that cigarettes killed her.  What I do know is that smoking stopped her from being able to run around and play with her grandchildren, or take them to the movies, or attend their sporting events.  She missed all of that because she was stuck in bed, unable to breathe.  And it makes me really sad.  I wish her reason to quit had been us.

Today during the Great American Smokeout, I'm not going to stand on a soapbox and tell you to quit smoking.  I have no right, and it's none of my business.  But if you do smoke, will you at least think about quitting?  For you, for your family, for your grandchildren?

26 comments:

  1. My Dad smoked when we were younger. I remember in 1st or 2nd grade at school the teacher talked about the effects of smoking and I came home crying and asked my Dad to quit. I know how hard it must have been but he quit cold turkey. Late in life he developed pulmonary fibrosis. Not sure if that was the result of smoking but it's so important to stop so you decrease the risk of developing something later.

    Jill
    www.dousedinpink.com

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    1. My oldest son did the same thing with my dad, although my dad didn't smoke much. He wrote him this really cute letter about stopping and he did. Didn't work with my mother in law though :(.

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  2. Very nice post Lana. My grandmother smoked for a long while, and then my grandpa grew a beard that she hated and she said, if you shave your beard I'll quit smoking and just like that, she stopped.

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    1. I love this story - so funny! Glad it worked.

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  3. Preach it, girlfriend, preach it. It deserves preaching!

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  4. I have never smoked. I have seen the pain that smoking causes -- to those who smoke and to the family members that are affected by it. Two people close to me smoke and it hurts so much to watch - especially how it affects the children. Thank you for sharing this -- it was written from a great perspective and you can get on the soapbox and preach away - hat's off to you

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    1. I hate to tell people not to do something when I don't understand it - but I wish everybody would stop!

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  5. My father died of lung cancer. I have asthma from growing up in the household. The hardest thing was watching him go through withdrawal after his first heart attack. He never conquered it. It will destroy you and sometimes the family around you.

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    1. I'm so, so sorry Pam. That must have been so difficult.

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  6. I know how hard this must have been to share this story Lana. I am not quitting today but I did make an appointment to go in to the Dr. to get something to help me stop. I am choosing New Year's Day to put them down and I hope like hell I am strong enough to quit. I have smoked since I was 15 at the beginning of the year I did manage to quit for 3 months but hubby didn't even attempt it. So I blame him haha for starting back up again! This time he has agreed to quit as well for "our"grandbabies. I want to see them grow up. I am cutting back severely which is pretty easy to do because we never smoke in our home we go outside and it's freezing so this is a good time for me. I will probably use the patches because they worked well for me before and I don't want to take any pill. You would think I could just through them in the garbage but is probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Back in January was the first time I ever tried to quit and I did succeed for that 3 months so I know I can do it. It's just certain times that are hard. After dinner, in the car and late at night but I will kick it. We've been talking about it for the last couple of weeks but this post today really hit home to me that I need to make my grandbabies my reason. So I will continue to cut down, get the patches and when I wake up on December 1st I will be done. Just make sure to nag me after the 1st!!!!hahahaha!

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    1. Well, first of all, I didn't know you smoke! And secondly - yay, I'm so glad you're going to quit! I can only imagine how difficult it is, but you are such a strong person, I know you can do it. Plus, you have the best motivation with those two precious gandbabies!

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    1. Don't worry - come January 1st I'll be bugging you!

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  8. I wish I could send this to my father-in-law. Unfortunately, I don't think he would listen. He, too, was born in 1940 and my husband and his siblings told me he started smoking in his teens. He has survived a stroke and as I've written before, now has a hard time moving and breathing. But one this he just won't give up is smoking.

    I love your approach saying you don't have the right to ask someone to quit. I wish we all had that right though, esp. where in involves our loved ones.

    Thanks for this Abby!

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    1. I really wish we could make them stop somehow. Unless they really want to, it's a losing battle.

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  9. Hi Lana! It doesn't matter that you didn't smoke....don't let that stop you from telling others! I did smoke and I wish everyone had repeatedly told me not to do it over and over again. But because it was still sorta easy and accepted I just continued until I finally couldn't fool myself any more. I'm convinced that if we make it harder and harder -- and less pleasant for those that do smoke, they will stop seeing the benefits and instead start considering what a killer it is! And yes, sorry about your mom in law. My mom died at 72 from something similar. It's time to save more more moms if we can! ~Kathy

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    1. I'm so glad you don't smoke anymore :)! We made it pretty difficult for my mother in law, but she didn't care until she finally decided.

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  10. My dad smokes, he tried to quit last year but didn't have the willpower. It makes me sad and angry. I'm sorry to hear your mother in laws story, and I hope my dad doesn't have the same fate.

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    1. I'm sorry that your dad has had a hard time quitting. From what I understand it is one of the hardest addictions to break.

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  11. Stand on a soapbox. I'll be happy to join you. I quit in 1982 and it was one of the best things I've ever done. So many sad, sad stories.

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    1. I'm so, so glad you were able to quit. I agree, way too many sad stories.

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  12. So sad. I have never had a cigarette. I tried one when I was 14 but I didn't really inhale.. anything.. It was more for show for a friend.
    Never again.

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    1. Good for you. I tell my boys the best way to stay away from something bad is never to start!

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  13. Such an important topic. I admire how you approached this Lana. No one can make someone quit unless they want to, but you provides plenty of motivation by example. So sorry to hear that your mother-in-law was in such poor health at the end of her life.

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    1. Okay, we're both up too late blogging again! I was just headed over to your blog when I saw this! Thanks for your kind words - the last few years of her life were very difficult for her and us.

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