Lung Cancer, September, 1997 When it all started.
I started smoking when I was a young girl of fourteen. My mother smoked and my twin sister had already crossed that line. Before the 1960’s advertising the sale of cigarettes was still legal, but in the 40’s and 50’s advertising was different. It encouraged cigarette smoking and showed glamorous photos of beautiful women and hunky men smoking. With a smoking mother, I was probably doomed to at least try it. It was fashionable and there was nothing like a bit of peer pressure to help fuel it. And I was so young, naive and vulnerable, and easily influenced. I could have been a poster child for smoking: Look everyone, I’ll be smoking one day!”
This began to change when scientists found more and more evidence that tied smoking to lung cancer. Terms like “coffin nails, lung darts, cancer sticks, and fags” were used frequently. Social pressure rose like lava under a mountain to stop smoking. But for those of us who were already addicted by the ingredients in both tobacco and its filters, the future would look grim. I was unaware of any stop-smoking programs or help lines to call. Addiction would win for many of us.
But now I had been too afraid to tell anyone what I suspected. I felt debased and horrified that I had let it come to this. This wasn’t the silly lie of young folk, it was a grown-up lie. It was a grown up game that we played. We just didn’t say the lie. But the day was near when I didn’t need to say it, because someone else would.
I had been coughing for about a year and now I was coughing up blood, not a lot, but noticeable. I knew what it probably meant. If I said anything It would make it real, so I hid it. But I had to have an Xray of my chest due to a small accident. I was petrified as I sat in the waiting room, fidgeting like a worm on a hook. The radiologist had picked-up a shadow under my right lung. It was the same side as my bruised rib that wasn’t broken. I was in trouble! Even though I had no idea what I was looking, I knew instinctively that whatever it was it shouldn’t be there. Soon everyone would know about “the spot.” It was the big C. The radiologist would out my secret.
I was in a panic to get home. I called Dave immediately. My voice sounded like it came from someone else, croaky, old, shockey. It was amazing that I didn’t have an accident. I was a deer in the woods with the sound of hunting all around. I knew my doctor would call me as soon as he got the news. And he did phone as soon as I walked into the house. It was THE call. He said I had cancer in my right lung. He actually said the word out loud. It was finally not a game anymore and all I wanted was a smoke, like someone going back into a burning house. Lung Cancer.