Yes, I am in remission, at least until August. That's when I get my next scan and find out if I am still "cured". However, there is another "C" in my life that is turning my world upside down yet again.
COPD. What's that? Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disorder. As the doctor put it, I have chronic bronchitis with a touch of emphysema. "Is that like a 'dash' of salt", I asked him. I have always tried to handle whatever comes my way with humor and a positive outlook.
I watched my mother die a slow, agonizing death by this dreaded thing. It's not painful, you can't breathe! To me, watching someone gasp for air, suffocate slowly, is more agonizing than pain. I can't take back the memories of her struggling to walk for she did not have enough oxygen in her body to allow her to move. I will never forget the blueness in her lips or fingernails from this dreaded disease, nor will I ever forget how hospice kept her unconscious with morphine per our request so she would not realize she was suffocating during her last moments.
This scares me more than cancer! I swear to you, it does.
Why must I suffer so? Stupidity. It's called smoking. My mother had an excuse for smoking, when she started they didn't know how dangerous it was and by the time they did, she was far too addicted to quit. She did quit eventually, when she nearly died! That was how she got diagnosed with COPD. Me, I have no excuse. I started as a young woman of 18 and I KNEW that it was deadly. Hey, it was more important to look cool, right? Hell, I mean, we were IMMORTAL when we were teens, nothing could touch us! Once I got out of my teen years, I didn't have the "cool" excuse anymore. I didn't even make excuses for myself. I openly admitted that I liked it and I would quit when I wanted. That was the problem.
I didn't want to quit. I was a bored housewife (even worse, I was raising kids in this smoke-filled environment, not understanding what I was doing to their lungs, convinced I was only hurting mine.) with nothing to do but watch T.V. and my children. It gave me something to do, kept me occupied. Then there came a time when I knew I had to stop, I was getting bronchitis yearly and every time the same lecture, QUIT SMOKING! Did I? Obviously not. I sat on my high and mighty throne declaring war against anyone that would dare lecture me about my smoking.
WHY COULDN'T I LISTEN!?
I cry that out in vain now.
I did quit for some time during all of my cancer treatments, and I felt great. One stressful day lead to one cigarette, then another and another and BOOM, back to sucking that tobacco stick full time. Now the lungs that were cleaned out by a bronchoscopy and breathing so easy were back to square one. I felt like I was breathing like a teen again and now I feel like I am breathing like my mother. I notice my shoulders rise high when I attempt a deep breath. I get the same shaky feeling when I race for my nebulizer. I am scared. I wouldn't wish this feeling on anyone. Gasping for air is no fun. Not being able to play with your children is heart-wrenching. When you can't walk down a hallway to go to the bathroom without feeling like you ran a 5K, you know it's bad. I was in denial, I have been in denial about the shape of my lungs for years.
I was given a second chance with that bronchoscopy and blew it. Now, there is no turning back, no turning my lung damage around. The medicines I am on will keep me comfortable and allow me to breathe as long as I use them every 8 or 6 hours depending on the medication. COPD has no cure. You can't undo the torture you put your precious organs through, sad to say.
Now, I am attempting to quit smoking again so that I don't do further damage, for I am way ahead of the game as opposed to my mother, who smoked for 63 years. I am beginning to think cigarettes weren't as harmful for most of the time that she smoked. How could I smoke about 38 years less than her and come out nearly as damaged as she? Just giving every one something to think about. It really doesn't make sense. Before anyone asks the question...yes, I was sick like this before the tumor. So it is not cancer-related.
If you know of someone who smokes, please pass this blog on to them. Try to help them see the light. Let them know they will not live to see their children grow and may miss out on grandchildren. My mother missed out on meeting my youngest and she would have loved her. Warn them that they WILL suffocate with this disease. Ask them if they would like you to hold a plastic bag over their face so they can understand what that feels like, the struggling to breathe. Tell them the medication for this is very expensive. Most importantly, tell them you love them and don't want to see them suffer!
I implore any smoker reading this, please give it up now. If you are a teenager, or young adult, you should drop them immediately before you are too addicted and find some better hobby.
I wish someone had told me all this would happen to me, I wouldn't have tried to look cool, I would have tried to save my life.