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Yesterday I filled out the lung cancer survey on line about the ONLY cancer that comes with a stigma. It brought back a lot of old feelings that I've since resolved (I thought).

I went to a seminar at a local hospital for women with lung cancer, and the good doctor talked about smoking. He said that if you have lung cancer, you either smoked, breathed in second hand smoke, or were exposed to some other carcinogen that you breathed in (War Vets, people in construction, factories, and many other places where you could have been exposed). One woman was very offended by this, which made me feel guilty and stupid for smoking as long as I did.

I smoked for a long time, over 30 years. I finally was able to quit, but it was only 3 years before my diagnosis. The damage was done. I felt horribly guilty when I told my husband, because I knew what was ahead of me, having Mom, Uncle, Aunt, Mom-In-Law and Brother-In-Law all die from this, or complications from this disease. He knew what was ahead.

After getting a second opinion at Mayo Clinic, we were sent to a Pulmonary Doctor. He looked at the CT Scan, and then looked at me and asked me "Why did you smoke?" I saw RED. Here I was dealing with an illness, one I understood all too well, why ask that question? I looked him in the eye and said "because I was addicted to them!" Enough said. And I fired him as my doctor.

I mean, come on! I had so many emotions happening anyway, why make me feel worse than I already did. I just wanted to yell "YES, YES, YES, I WAS A SMOKER, SO I DESERVE THIS DISEASE????"

And when people asked about my obvious cancer when my hair fell out, and they found out what kind it was, they would kind of back away, or change the subject, because I had a disease that I caused. I can't imagine how this makes someone that never smoked feel. It must be awful, because it makes some who did smoke feel horrid, rejected, and an outcast.

Cancer is caused by so many different things. What we eat, where we live, life styles, things we're exposed to, thousands of reasons why, reasons not yet discovered. (Which by the way is why I am thrilled to be here, as I believe in "the cause" of this site).

OK, reading this over I can tell I have not resolved my guilt issues, because I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins as I re-feel these feelings. Ack!

I am so happy to find this place, and I am really exploring and checking things out. I like what I see, a lot!

And Judy from Key West? You are too sweet to change your name back to your old one. I didn't even think about two Judy's here, but one Judy is awesome, two is even better!

Thanks for letting me vent.


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The truth is that many of our most common diseases are most often caused by our lifestyle. Yet when someone has a heart attack, we don't ask them, "You ate beef?", or if they're diagnosed with colon cancer, we don't say, "Didn't get enough fiber, huh?"

Lots of us make unhealthy lifestyle choices, especially when we're young and bulletproof. Some aren't so easy to correct later. There's really no productive reason to feel guilty about past poor lifestyle choices, so I just refuse to feel guilty about mine. The best we can do is try to make better choices going forward. That's what I try to do.

No need to justify venting here. We all do it, and when someone else does it, we understand why. We "get" it. Sharing with people going through similar experiences does seem to help, as does reading about other people's struggles which are similar to our own. Hang in there, Judy!

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I smoked from 13 yrs old until my dx, 37 years. Back when a lot of us started smoking we didn't know the health risks, we wanted to look like "movie stars"! Once all the evidence started coming out, like you said it was too late I was hooked on them, besides nobody in my family ever had cancer! I guess I can't say that anymore. Like Bud said people can point fingers at a lot of differant diseases. Some people are just finger pointers! I didn't deserve this, you didn't, none of us did. If any of us had knowm when we started smoking what the outcome was going to be would we have smoked anyway? I just don't know, but I can't put the spilt milk back in the glass, so if people want to judge me let 'em. The only prob is I just might judge them right back! :lol:

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We have had many threads about smoking and the blame we take from others. There are so many here who NEVER smoked but the public doesn't want to see that because then they could become victims of this cancer. And I agree - if I met someone with cervical cancer, I wouldn't asdk if they were promiscuous and contracted HPV. Its stupid and its ignorant.

You should have no guilt. We didn't know back in the day and smoking was glamourized for so long. I can remember sitting in my doctors waiting room in a chair that had a built in ash tray!!! And the docs all smoked too.

So forget about the guilt and concentrate on staying healthy NOW. We can't change anything from the past.

And I am so glad you fired that jerk!!!

Hugs - Patti B

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Dear Judy,

Both Bill and I smoked when we were younger, and on into our older years.

Bill was in the Marines at age 17. While there, and having reached age 19, the Korean Conflict occurred.

It was while he was there in Korea that the government threw cigarettes out of planes to the soldiers.

At first, he "traded" them for chocolate. When no one traded anymore, he began smoking them.

As for me, I thought I was sophisticated 8) , and why not? After all, the doctors were on TV attesting to the fact that they preferred such and such a brand.

Guilt didn't play a part in my thinking because there has been enough "shared" guilt by professionals to go around. Besides, we cannot change past scenarios. We can only do better for ourselves where we stand presently.

Glad you fired that doctor. He wouldn't have done you any good with that attitude of his. We need positive, encouraging people in our journey.

For the record, they have come to realize that there are many diseases which may have been caused by smoking and/or other lifestyle choices. Diabetes has been connected with weight.

Heart disease is a big one. I have heart disease and no doctor ever asked me if I smoked in the present or the past. :roll: Go figure.

BTW, it's good to vent. It keeps things from festering. :D

Thanks for being a member here, Judy.

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Judy, yes I smoked too. Seems like most everyone did in the day. I have no guilt. It was funny but when the doctor called me to tell me they found cancer cells in my lung fluid, the first thing he said was "it's not smoker's cancer." To this day I don't understand him saying that because I've learned that people who smoked do get non small cell adenocarcinoma. But I guess they more commonly get small cell. I'll admit though, at the time I was relieved. I didn't want that burden of guilt that I caused this. Having been on this site so long now, it's irrelevant to me and I feel no guilt. It's the card I was dealt. My father died of lung cancer and many relatives of other forms of cancer. All that matters now is how I live my life with it.

Judy in KW

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  • 3 months later...


Judy, I'm a non-smoker. When people assume that I smoke/d because of the type of cancer I have, I have an opportunity to educated them. Prior to being a patient myself, I always thought that lung cancer happened to old men who had chain smoked all their lives. Guess I got schooled...

The longer you hang out here, though, you'll be introduced to a new kind of guilt, and that's the guilt that I deal with. It's called "Survivor's Guilt". Sometimes, it leads to "vacations" from the board for a while to collect thoughts and work through the feelings.

Glad you're here, but skip the guilt. Some of the people you see as "judging" you either smoke or did, and there is probably a bit of fear in their heart when they see how close they could be to their own mortality...

Hang in there,


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Oh the "guilt". It never goes away for me I just try to learn to live with it. I keep trying to tell myself that I deserve to live just as much as anyone else. We all need to try and remember that we did not ask for this path in life. It seems to have been chosen for us.

So easy for me to get on the "shut the world down and hide in my shell wagon."


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  • 3 weeks later...

This is interesting reading about guilt. Not sure why, but I never really feel guilty about smoking or getting lung cancer.

People always ask when they find out that I had lung cancer that smoked and I always tell them yes, but I also lived in a house with smokers (parents), visited relatives that smoked (uncles that died from lung cancer), worked around chemicals without respritory protection, and lived in a neighborhood when I was a child that has had 5 people I know die from a cancer, and another 6 that have had cancer and survived.

While I know I've made some bad choices regarding smoking, I've never felt that smoking was the primary cause of my cancer. I may be dillusional in my thinking, but I feel that smoking was just a piece to the puzzle.

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Funny this, lots of people asked if I smoked (I did but had quit 2 months before dx). When I was dx with breast cancer 3 years ago nobody asked any questions about it all.

Listening to a friend smoke a cigarette (we were on the phone), I asked her (out of the blue) if anyone had asked her if she'd been "busy" :oops::oops: before her cervical cancer dx. She gasped and said no............I answered well if you ever get lung cancer they'll be sure to ask you if you smoke.

Strangely enough my new heart problems were probably caused by the chemo that finished my breast cancer tx..................nobody has asked me about that either.

I'm long enough from lc dx, almost 9 years, that I'm not usually asked too much about it and any guilt feelings are long gone.

One answer for those crass enough to ask is:

If you don't know me well enough to know, you don't know me well enough to ask!

That'll shut 'em up.


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Amen Katie and Geri,

The stigma of cancers being "our fault" is one that will only go away with education. It's a natural human reaction to find a way to make oneself feel better that they are not a candidate, and that is by asking questions that are inappropriate, but somehow reasurring to the person asking the question.

Bottom line is statistically, at least here in Michigan, 1 iin 3 men will get cancer, and 2 iin 4 women. 50% of us will get some kind of cancer. Michigan is higher statistically for cancer, but it's high everywhere.

No one is safe from cancer. That is the message we need to get out. When I get "the question" now, I just look at them and say in the kindest way I can, "you are not immune from this. I pray you don't get it."

Judy in MI

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