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Does anyone else out there ever feel really upset or angry when you see someone smoking? Many of my coworkers go outside for smoke breaks. Some know all about my mother's cancer, others do not. I cannot help feeling so frustrated, sad, and angry towards them. My thinking is that yes, they realize they may someday develop cancer, but what I am guessing they don't realize is how difficult it is for the survivors to deal with their grief when they are also very angry at their lost loved one. Am I the only one who feels this way? This is the part of my grief that seems most difficult at times. I know that the anger is a negative emotion, and on some levels I feel I have forgiven my mom. I realize that she didn't know the dangers back in the 50's when she started. And is it right to be angry with somone for living their life their way? No. So logically I get it, but emotionally, not so much.
This is my story of survival. It tells of an encounter with a disease of death - lung cancer - and significant life after, a very precious and rare thing. Who I am is unimportant; what I've experience is: eleven plus years of treatment and survival. These words are set down for but one reason - to raise a call to arms to fund lung cancer research. Enough have suffered. It is time for change. I am not a doctor; indeed I possess little medical knowledge. I am, however, a very experienced and long-tenured lung cancer patient. That gives me a unique prospective on the disease that kills more, many times more, than any other type of cancer. I'll avoid statistics. They are readily available form any number of reputable resources. But, I have a firm belief that lung cancer research is poorly funded because it is considered a self-induced disease. I believe my cancer was caused directly by cigarette smoke. I recall a time when many of my peers smoked but they stopped well before middle age. I couldn't. I am addicted to nicotine. Every time I'd try cessation, the addiction would draw me back. Of course, people make a choice to take up smoking but that choice is made primarily when we are young and influenced by peer behavior. Young people do dangerous things. Consult the ubiquitous YouTube "fail videos" for validation. However, there are other disease that we choose to give ourselves. Consider Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as just one example. Yes, some acquire it from medical transfusion or inadvertent needle sticks, but most are afflicted as a result of a behavior choice. HIV is described as a world-wide pandemic. It may be and in the US to address this largely self-induced disease, we invested $3.074 billion (billion with a B in 2012 for research. Consider further, we spent $1.052 billion on drug abuse funding and that is clearly self-inducted. Compare these with $314.6 million invested in lung cancer research (NIH Data). We spend about 10 times more on HIV/AIDS than lung cancer and drug abuse research garners 3.4 times more funding! In 2012, 47,989 people were diagnosed with HIV infection and about 13,834 died. In that same year, about 226,160 people were diagnosed with lung cancer and 160,340 died! Lung cancer kills 5 times more than HIV in the US. Lung cancer should be our pandemic! In 1998, the US and State Attorney's General entered into a Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to collectively settle filed law suites against tobacco companies. This yielded $206 billion over a 25-year period. How much of that is dedicated to lung cancer research? About 0.065% or just over $1 billion is earmarked for federal research. Where does the money go? That is a very good question. We need to SCREAM about this inequity. If you are reading this, you are likely suffering from lung cancer or have a family member or close friend suffering. You've read or seen TV news coverage about the horrors of HIV/AIDS but thankfully, it is a problem most American families do not encounter. Yes there is a stigma of self-affliction for lung cancer but the same stigma should attach to HIV/AIDS. It does not and I wonder why my disease is so under accommodated! We speak of those who suffer or pass from lung cancer as engaged in battle. There is no battle for engaging in battle entails a choice. One can retreat. When diagnosed with lung cancer there are but two choices: treatment or death. Statistically for lung cancer, there is treatment and death! Treatment borders on barbarism that is repetitively endured, with uncertain outcomes, and with death looming closely. I was and still am to some degree overwhelmed by fear. I still get scanned once a year and the time between diagnostic scan and results is a nightmare to endure. My treatments nearly killed me, several times. I survived, not knowing why. My survival is hope for those who suffer, particularly for those 230,000 Americans who will receive a lung cancer diagnosis this year. If I can survive, so can you. But, we ought not rely on hope as an effective treatment method. We collectively need to speak out to those that decide on allocations of disease research dollars. Engage your elected officials. Ask them why they continue to under allocate research funding for our disease. Remind them that between 15 and 18-percent of lung cancer diagnosis arise from people who never smoke. Ask them if they are willing to rely on hope if they receive a lung cancer diagnosis.