Smoking and Lung Cancer

Smoking and Lung Cancer Don't Mix
Smoking and Lung Cancer did not mix for me

1997- Smoking and Lung Cancer

The urge to smoke when I got home from my lobectomy to remove my  lower right lung drove me crazy. I was a slave to nicotine and everything that I did was a fight to be free of it.The urge to smoke ambushed me, like a lurking Gollum. If I wanted to live I could not smoke. I was in the throws of nicotine withdrawal and it was horrible..

I have to talk about smoking and lung cancer because my healing, my recuperation depended on my not smoking, not ever. But these cravings are such a draw, a power, a riptide pulling back its backwash. It’s hard to describe how I knew that I had to have a cigarette. It’s a whisper of a need that grows into a hunger. It starts at the back of my tongue, a foretaste, and swims to my head and heart. It’s my very own feedback loop. Somehow I had to stop this, to break the code.

When post-op minor complications showed up they paled in comparison to my urge to smoke. My bladder infection would go away, if only I could smoke!! My stitches itched, my muscles contracted, I was tired and achy and needed pain pills at night. I was as cranky as an old car refusing to start. The high that I had felt for surviving my surgery paled in comparison to what I really craved.

I remembered how fabulous it was, smoking when I was in college. It was so social, so acceptable, so stylish. Any craving was instantly fed, like a mosquito needing a sip of blood. Not a thought in the world but inserting its stinger. It was my pleasure, that first inhale, my lustprinzip.  Smoking felt cool. But even back in the late 60’s and early 70’s there was a niggling of fear, a breath of panic. Would I get cancer?

Could I really fight this feeling of lack of control? Gain power over it? But what would replace it? If I continue smoking what would I do instead? Would it be just empty time? A time to remember smoke rings, to reminisce? Maybe a time to do something else? But what? I don’t remember how far along I was in my recovery, but I knew that something had to change. Even my dreams were betraying my cravings. I’ve always had mostly vivid, fun dreams, but they were now conjuring up fear that I would be caught smoking. They created a panic, not at the edge but splat in the center. My dreams had turned bad. I couldn’t get away with anything now, not even in a dream state.

As time went on I didn’t need to worry about whether I had enough cigarettes to last me until the next day. No one stepped back from my exuding any telltale signs that I was a smoker –  shame, shame. My nails changed to a more natural color, as did my teeth. I found that my hands didn’t need to be as busy, worrying everything, like a puppy gnawing its paws.

Nothing replaced my smoking and yet everything did. I also think that Dave was getting pretty sick of my whining, and finally, said to me, “If you smoke, you’ll die” And there it was, a new mantra, all for me! So every time I had a craving that was especially strong, I would say to myself, “If you smoke, you’ll die. ” It was between me and me, a private, battle song. I was like a Viking yelling “Tyr!”  the god of war!

War against smoking
I was fighting the Battle of my life.

As far as I knew I no longer had cancer. I had to consider myself a non-smoker. But old habits die hard, as much as it is to quit smoking. As soon as I could drive I found that the cigarette lighter popped out as soon as I got in the car. Did I push it in? I have no memory of it. My heart leapt into the air. Maybe there was a left over butt in the ashtray!! But Dave had done an absolutely thorough job of getting rid of any butts, ashtrays and lighters. I would puff no more. If there had been a butt in that ashtray I would have lit it up. But I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. It took me a long time for the cravings to ebb until they were just a whisper, every now and then.


12 thoughts on “Smoking and Lung Cancer

  1. Liz Webb says:

    Mary for someone that just quit smoking I truly appreciate this post. Each day I struggle I will remember you blog , thank you .Your journey is a inspiration , thank you for sharing

    • Merry says:

      Liz- It’s a toughy for sure, but stick with it, you will feel better each day. How did you hear of my blog?

      • Liz Webb says:

        Canadian Cancer Society , I commented on your intro there today. Merry, you are truly a inspiration. Thank you for sharing your journey

        • Merry says:

          Thank you. One thing also that helped me quit smoking was knowing that so many other people (millions!!) have quit, and have stayed free of cigarettes. Use a mantra!! It may sound silly but it works.

  2. Michele says:

    Ive smoked over 40 yrs till last june 3, 2017. Lung cancer made me quit. I think of it n want a cig 10 times a day but push the thought away. Its so hard still n will be i think. You can stay quit if i have. Im the most addictive personality type ive ever seen. No alcohol either now. Life is so different and im deprived but yet rewarded to wake up every morning and be alive and to love my new life is the best thing thats happened really. Since im in remission i must not smoke and wont because really i HATE HATE HATE CIGARETTES because they gave me cancer. So you too must HATE THEM RIGHT? You will stay quit! You have to!

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