Life does not always give us the happy ending we hope for, over time we all have to learn to say Goodbye to family and friends who feel like family. The next guest post was written by a very special lady, her blog >>>A day in the life<<< was one of the first blogs I followed, when I stepped into the blogging world. We talk back and forth via comments and got to know each other a little bit better. I know this post wasn’t an easy one to write and I am so grateful, that she is willing to share her story and experience with all of us.
Smoking takes it all
I met him when he was 18, I was 16. He had already been smoking for 4 years. Dunhills, then he switched to Larks. He’d roll over in the morning and light a cigarette before even getting out of bed. That was how his days started, and also how they ended. Literally.
We dated for close to ten years, then lost touch for about 30, and then as fate would have it I found out he was living back home with his mother a few blocks from me. He had lung cancer. He had been told it was late stage, they would try chemo to see if they could add a few months onto the 18 to 24 month prognosis. He was divorced, alone, so I started coming around every day, and did so until the end. They were right, it was 20 months.
I sat with him at his chemo appointments, he told me there was no one to blame but himself, it never occurred to him that this wouldn’t happen. He’d leave chemo and light a cigarette in the parking lot. He had to sit there four hours not smoking and could wait no longer. The chemo caused his hair to fall out and then the dental problems began. Frequent visits to the dentist for the teeth that were falling out as a result of his gums reacting to the chemo. The smoking continued, cases would arrive from the Native American reservation, Seneca the brand of choice now.
Shortly after finishing his allotted time for chemo, the confusion began. Was it a leftover reaction from the treatments, or something else. It turned out to be “the something else.” Metastasis to the brain. “Brain mets” in the jargon of the doctors. Recommendation: radiation to the brain. The radiologist took a mold of his head and constructed a mask, pinpointing where the radiation would be directed. I drove him to his appointments everyday as it was recommended he no longer drive because of the “mets”, it was possible he could black out or have a seizure.
When I had first started helping out with his care we would walk his dog Maggie, together, going for blocks and filling each other in on where our lives had taken us those 30 years we were out of touch. As time wore on the walks became shorter as it was harder for him to breathe and the coughing more frequent. Eventually I was alone walking Maggie. I watched him lose his strength, only able to get out of bed with assistance, his legs too weak to hold him. More confusion set in, erratic and irrational behavior, sometimes it was just easier to agree than argue and try to explain. One day he was talking about something, making no sense and I was going along with it. A few minutes later he looked at me, his eyes growing wide and said,”What I was just talking about made no sense did it?” I told him it had not. We just sat there looking at each other, feeling the sadness together of his new reality.
He was on home hospice for six months- a journey I would wish on no one. To watch someone literally deteriorate before your eyes, physically and mentally, is an awful thing. The indignity, the pain, the loss of everything. All caused by this addiction called smoking.
I was with him when he took his final breath, the last expelling of air so loud it made me jump, and then all was silent. He was 56. His two children are now left with no father, his dog has gone to live with a cousin. His brother and mother continue to mourn the loss everyday.
For a period of time after his death, when the images of my friend were still very fresh in my mind and my grief was palpable, I could not hold my tongue when I saw someone smoking. I would tell them to try to quit, that lung cancer is a horrible and ugly death. I was usually met with mind your own business, or thanks for the tip, but I did have a few young women tell me they knew they should try, and now maybe they would. I hoped so.