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To smoke, or not to smoke


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In joining a discussion on whether it's "right" or "wrong" to continue smoking after being diagnosed with lc I received a PM from a board member who seemed more anxious to confront than comfort, to blame than balm. Without mentioning this persons name, here was my reply:

Like many non-addictive personalities you seem to want all issues interpreted in either black and white, good or bad. You fail to see either the depth of the question nor the personal cost of those self-same ironies which make the choices addicts make as insane as their actions.

The original question is how someone could continue to support a behavior which has proven to be so destructive to them in the past. Look up the definition of addict.

All people who smoke aren't bad. Just as all people who purport to spiritualism are necessarily all good. The issue involved isn't to assign blame or guilt to someome who is suffering through the tragedy of a debilitating illness. The issue is what, for them, constitutes a mitigating moral argument which allows them to continue in addictive behavior while understanding that they, as human beings, still hold a place of worth and value in their society.

How can they be an addict and still a worthwhile person? How can they not quit, now that their life is possibly forfeit? How can they do this to their loved ones?

Because the choice is personal, not moral; Rational, not spurred by guilt. They make the choice which, to them, gives the most peace and comfort: to continue in behavior which, on it's face, makes no sense - but which brings a measure of peace and acceptance to a very troubled soul. They don't want to die - but that decision is no longer altogether theirs to make - but they want to hold on to a modicum of self respect. They continue to smoke because it has made them feel good in the past and it makes them feel good now.

You ask me how, if I'm getting food stamps, I can still go out and buy cigarettes? That's not a question in search of an answer, that's a recrimination in search of a sinner.

You ask how I can't see the irony in continuing to engage in addictive behavior when that behavior most likely is killing me? I ask you to look up the definition of addict; And remember that the definition isn't sinner.

I am very sorry for any misfortune that life has laid in your path. You seem to be a mish-mash of self-righteous anger, hate and blame. This is a time in our life when most of us who have this disease are looking for help and guidance, not blame-laying and recriminations. If you truly want to help people on this board, try and remember that we are only trying to find peace, not confrontation - there are plenty of other boards out there for that.

Doug Russell

Tacoma, WA

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Thank you Doug. No one has the right to pass judgment on another individual (outside of a courtroom of course).

What we need to do to get through this life is very personal. Earl had stopped smoking prior to his dx. When it looked like the tx when not working and the drs. told him there was really nothing more they could do, the only thing that seemed to give Earl comfort was a cigarette. The only thing I wanted for Earl, short of a cure, was for him to be as happy and comfortable as possible. So, yes, I bought him cigarettes and lit them for him when he was too sick to do it himself. At the end, this was with the blessing of the hospice nurse.

We do what we have to do and sometimes what we want to do.

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While my Gram chose no treatment she found her cigs to be a comfort to her and I could understand as I still smoke even after losing half my family to LC and having lung nodules discovered myself. I have quit several times this year already. But I am indeed an ADDICT. I am sorry you were judged for your own personal decision

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I think that was a great response to the PM you received. I also agree that most people are here on this board for support and NOT confrontation. Everyone has strong opinions on this issue as it has been discussed here before. We lost my Dad to lung cancer and I get so tired of people (even today) asking if he smoked. It didn't matter to me if he did or not the issue was I lost him. Ginny, I also think what you did for your beloved Earl to help make his final days a little more bearable was a true testament of your love for him. I would have done the same for my Dad if he would have ask and had let the family know my intentions. He stopped smoking at his diagnosis so I was never put in that position. It is hard to say what you would do in any situation unless you have been there yourself.

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Some PMs really hurt. It is such a shock to get anything other than love and support -- especially when that is what YOU offer to ALL others.

It has happened to me, too, Doug. I envy your articulate response.............I just cried.



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Thanks for sharing that Doug,

I believe 100% that everyone is entitled to their own opinion- but they don't have a right to shove it down the throats of others, condemn or berate anyone, under the umbrella of "privacy" while using LCSC's Private Messaging System.

A healthy debate and different points of view is how we learn from each other- but receiving a PM that may be cruel really hits a nerve with me.

Luckily there are few like that here-

At the time of writing this, I have no idea what this PM that was sent to you said. I write the disclaimer below just for FYI.

For any person that may feel like using the PM service to "hide" this type of behavior, please return to LCSC policies and the agreements you clicked "yes" to when registering here. The PM messaging service is owned by LCSC.

*Violations of LCSC Private Messaging System- you agree not to abuse the private messaging system to attack, slander or harass another member, under the umbrella of privacy. This service is owned, provided and monitored by The Lung Cancer Support Community and any reported violations will be investigated and reported to your internet providers and evidence of abuse of the PM system may result in automatic termination of membership.

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I'm sorry you got hit by this bullet. If the person is who I think it is, I don't think they are a bad person, just opinionated, outspoken, young, and just doesn't understand. I pray that this person will learn some tact and acceptance as the years go by.

I was unfortunate to have severe alcoholism in my family and spent my teenage years wailing and condemning the alcholics. I was fortunate to attend Al-Anon at the age of 21 and after 3 meetings learned "acceptance". That didn't mean I had to like it or even be around it, but I was able to throw away the judgment and love the alcoholics unconditionally until the day they died.

There isn't a family anywhere that isn't touched by the long-term effects of addictions of some sort, i.e., smoking, drugs, alcohol, xxxography, food, sex. I don't think we should condone any addictive behavior as a good thing, but I do hope that the world will come to a point of acceptance and dump the condemntation and judgment. It is what it is.

I had a doctor tell me one time that continuing to smoke even with an illness doesn't have anything to do with intelligence or logic. He also said if I could figure out the answers to the why and how questions, I would be one of the richest women in the world. I like the sound of that, so I'll be working on those answers. :lol:



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Doug,I think you handled that very well.Sorry you recieved a confrontational PM from someone however the subject of smoking has always brought out strong responses from people.

I for one enjoy reading your posts and hope you don't let this incident deter your continued input.

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Uncle Doug...

My dad used to say, "Every s.o.b. with a mouth has got to sing!!" :wink: This was back in the days of variety shows on t.v. when the singing sort of got to him...but Dad's comment can be adapted to the smoking debate too, I think.

I'm sorry you had to hear from someone who finds courage enough to private message a boatload of blame and nasty comments....but likely never has enough courage to state such feelings publicly. It's sort of like people who send anonymous letters....they love to "sing" or mouth off...but can't take the heat they'd likely get for doing so publicly.

I think your reply was brilliant. And I'm pretty sure you have given no credence to whatever was in the P.M. Bad enough this disease has the stigma that all of us with lung cancer did this to ourselves. Nobody here needs more recriminations heaped on them for not yet being able to quit the habit...break the addiction.

There is one woman here whom I intentionally did not tell about my lung cancer. I let her find out thru the grapevine....because it later came back to me that the FIRST thing she uttered was, "Those damn cigarettes!!" :?

I knew it would be something like that...and I didn't want to hear it. This woman....if you can believe it....is a former smoker herself. I don't hear from her much. I guess that's no surprise either.

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First of all, Thanks! for sharing your wonderful journal with us. You are an amazing writer and I look forward to reading your messages. I've been with the board (the first one and now this one) since 2001 and I believe that all of use here are truely looking for support, understanding, information and did I say support??!! You did not deserve to have any judgements thrown your way. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions you are not ENTITLED to share it.

Secondly I just wanted to share my expereince with you on the smoke, not smoke question. However I realize I may receive my own PM from another disgruntled reader. My mother and my grandmother both died (early) from the effects of smoking. (not LC related though) anyway watching them was enough for me and I never even had the urge to try smoking. so when I was diagnosed with LC I was floored to say the least. I was in my mid 30's and in good health. when treatment was discussed one thing that EVERYONE mentioned to me from my PCP, to Pulm doc, to onco, to rads doc, to surgeon... was the line "since you are still young, healthy and don't smoke" we will try this... When I asked about aggressive chemo it was the same line yes we will try it since.... I was a stage 4 at diagnosis and I was operated on 4 times finally received a pneumonectomy and they only agreed to it since.... the rads doctor was really up front about it and I said rather sarcastically "you mean if I didn't meet these criteria you wouldn't help me???" and he said we would help you but you wouldn't have as many treatment options and surgery probably would not have been an option at ALL! I was amazed and I still am.

I'm not trying to judge ANYONE. Smoking or not smoking is an individual choice. People need to realize that non smokers get cancer, they get LC too. Smokers don't deserve or "ask" for it. But if someone is on the fence and would like a little push to help them decide to try and give it up it may encouage them to know that they may get additional options as far as treatment.

i don't know that was worth being said or not.

But regardless of that fact... I am encouraged reading your entries as we and I'm sure many others on the board are going through similar situations, fears and decisions. I am so thankful everyday for everyone here... it honestly help me get through all of this.

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That's too bad. Although everyone has an opinion, no one should judge anyone else on this board, because we're all here for support. SUPPORT!!

I'd like you to quit because I want you to get better, but I'm not going to judge your decision, and I sure wish no one else would, either.


Karen C.

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Thank You Doug,

So sorry you had a judgemental PM.

I quit smoking Aug. 5,04, the day of my lobectomy,

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't DIE for a cig.

I have continued to remain a non smoker while I'm at stage 3A, but if I my stage should change due to mets. Who knows. I just may become a smoker again.

I do not judge people that continue to smoke, and I would not want to be judged if I started again.

It is our choice.

Thanks again for bringing this subject out in the open.


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Doug i to am a ex smoker along with my wife who now has sclc advanced. I still get upset when i hear the self rightious complain about smoker's and then give a litany of all the evil's about smoking.But never consider the thing's they do that might be offensive to other's..

I had a pointed discussion a few year's back with a person i knew for quite a long time that never used to complain about smoker's. Then once smoking became the greatest evil in the world according to some. This person got on the band wagon and i reminded them of there change in attitude in which i found later on that lead attack's toward's me, but such is the nature of such people.

I try my self not to be judgemental but admit that is at time's very diffulcult and maybe we should look at that person or person's and just learn to say what christ might have said and did while on the cross...Forgive them for they know not what they do, and in you attacker's case FORGIVE THEM THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY SAY.....

Say were you a writer by chance as you write with such professional humor and balance....Larry

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I'm addressing the issue of smoking Vs not smoking and how it relates to my treatment.

I believe that the decision to provide me with a salvage pneumonectomy 2 years ago was based, in part, by the fact that I was still a non smoker. I believe that had I started smoking again 1. my left lung would not have been able to support my respiratory needs, and 2. The Surgeon wouldn't have taken the risk on my behalf. Because it's a fact: Pneumonectomy is a risky surgery. Bad outcomes are not good for the patient or the surgeon.)

I personally want you to stop. Because I believe that after the initial withdrawal period you will feel better physically. I base that assumption on my own personal experience. But I prefer the idea of supporting you through the process, what ever you decide.

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This is a support group not a bash group! Let's look at all the non-smokers who have LC! If we look at it that because you smoke you deserve it, then what about the non-smokers. We could say they must have done something wrong to deserve it according to the person who is not named.

I look at it this way, NO ONE DESERVES this disease! Smoker or Non-smoker!

You handled that very nicely, nicer then I think I could have!

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Uncle Doug,

Gosh I feel awful that you received that PM. I have dealt with cigarette addiction myself and quit 10 years ago. I know how difficult it is. The guilt and shame are bad enough without being hit when your down already.

So while I would LOVE IT if you would quit, I do not walk in your shoes. I hope this incident does not keep you away. I really enjoy your posts and think you should definitely keep writing.....


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I've been reading these posts all day. I'm very sorry that you had a nasty pm. That just shouldn't happen, no matter what. If someone wants to say something, they should say it for all to see. We've been down this road before here on the board. We lost a very good friend due to someone being out of line. Please know that many people here are here for support, not to tear anyone down. No matter what, feel free to say what you think and know that many of us are behind you. Don't be disturbed by any of this. It isn't worth the time. Feel better, ok? 8)


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Nice posting. Sometimes you just have to shrug off opinions or advice that are offered in a tone too bold.

I loved Ginny's reply as I also found myself married to someone who, for 15 months, alternated from trying to quit to puffing all out. Jim's smoking cycles ebbed and flowed with the test results and prognosis he heard along the way.

I also purchased his cigarettes and lit them for him when his double vision invariably had him trying to light the phantom cigarette. I knew the cigarette brought him much needed comfort after months and months of constant treatment. It wasn't about right vs. wrong; it was about loving someone so much you wanted to provide some comfort, however possible.

Doug, I enjoy reading your eloquent posts. I rarely post but this subject poked a soft spot.


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Dear Uncle Doug,


We come here for comfort, support and a place to be safe. Shaming someone isn't something that comes when COMFORTING and SUPPORTING THEM.

I'm only here to help you through this journey, offering you comfort and support and some education and what I did during my treatments, and telling you what to do, isn't helping you. I have learned what works for ONE doesn't always work someone else. We're all different in our treatments. It's kind of like, why do some smokers get cancer and others don't???

Some doc's will tell you to quit, and some won't. Some will tell you this, that and the other thing will work if you quit smoking and some won't say anything.

I just wish this was a safe place for people who smoke or did smoke could come and not have to be shamed or judged. It really hurts me when someone has quit smoking and they still get shamed for what they DID! OY VEY! Damned if you do, and damned if you don't. Enough Blame! WE are trying to take the stigma away from Lung Cancer.

God Bless,


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BRAVO! Great response to the judgemental, guilt-tripping PM'er. (I should say "attempted guilt tripper).

It's most certainly a personal decision and not up for debate or ridicule or put-downs - it's your choice - your life.

I know that if/when my disease runs out of options and it has spread to the point of no return, I will probably smoke again until it's "time". Altho I do have COPD and asthma - that may make it a little more difficult - but only time will tell.

Again, great post!!!

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Good one Doug!

Seems to me that you really were able to cut this person down to size......which by the seem of things is very small to begin with.

I too am a reformed smoker, my irony is that I stopped a 40+ year habit on Sept 1 2001 and my dx was on Nov 14 2001, had I not already stopped it would have been very difficult to do when I was under all the stress of dx.

Maybe the answer to that crappy pm is to consider the source and move on, you were very eloquent in your answer and said it all.

Please keep your journal entries coming, you manage to capture life and write about it in a way that we all relate to.

Stay strong


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I'm so sorry someone could be so hateful to you. I have to wonder what a person like that hopes to gain. Your reply was excellent and I certainly hope you won't let that display of ignorance , on their part, keep you away from this board. As you have stated, much more eloquently and kinder than I, this a board for supporting others and not standing in judgment of them. Remember , the majority of us are here for the right reasons. I enjoy your posts very much.


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Glad you didn't let the turkey get you down, Doug. I love your well-written posts.

I've never been a smoker, but have seen the h@ll my mom went through trying to quit. I have no doubt it is one of the world's toughest addictions to quit.

Which brings up a point that really ticks me off - you can get in-patient treatment for alcohol and illegal drug addictions, but want to quit smoking? You're pretty much on your own. Why isn't there intensive help for such an intensive addiction? Not fair.

Anyone overweight should certainly have sense enough to shut up about people who can't quit smoking. And I bet that would cover a bunch of 'em (and yes, I carry extra padding). "Let whomever is without sin cast the first stone".

It takes more than cigarettes to cause cancer - otherwise all smokers would get it, and non-smokers wouldn't. I hate the way cigarettes are allowed to distort the issues - we need a cure.

Again, Doug, you are a class act and a smart one. In a perfect world, you would be able to quit smoking. But nobody can do everything right, so just do the best you can.

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