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Diagnosis Terminal Lung Cancer - The day she quit smoking

Updated on February 16, 2012
Cancer Cell  jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cancer Cell jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net | Source

When you don't think lung cancer will choose you.

Today, it is no secret smoking causes lung cancer. From billboards to television, the signs are everywhere. Still everyday several people start while others are trying to quit smoking. By the time I started smoking the warnings were clear, but I didn't heed the warnings. My grandmother started smoking before warnings were so abundant. Sure there were some, but nothing like today. I know she didn't believe lung cancer would choose her.

Grandma was a frail woman. She made up funny little songs and everyone laughed. The room filled with laughter just before she filled it with smoke. She lit her cigarette and as she took her first puff everyone would stare.She was the only smoker in the house so there was no one else to blame. People would gag, choke, complain, but she smoked.

It wasn't until she was about 52 years old that I ever heard her say anything negative about smoking. She had a bout of coughing that scared me to death and said, "These dam*ed things!"

She had gone to the doctor twice that month and both times received a diagnosis of acute bronchitis.

She had numerous medications in her medicine cabinet. Every few hours she would pour a glass of water and take her medications. I never related it to smoking.

It wasn't until the early 80's, I remembered her talking about lung cancer. Apparently, Grandpa and her doctor were giving her a hard way to go about smoking.

She said she was going to town and I begged her to go. Hesitantly, she agreed. I didn't know why she had reservations about taking me, because it hadn't been a problem in the past.

About 2 miles down the road she says, "Can you keep a secret?" I said, "Ya." Then she tells me, "Don't tell anyone I smoked in this car. I'll never hear the end of it." "Ok, Grandma, I won't, but why do they want you to quit?" She paused for a moment before telling me, "Because they think I'm going to get lung cancer from smoking?"

I remember thinking, "What in the world is lung cancer?" I wanted to be a big girl so I asked her why they thought that. She said, "Oh it's something they keep talking about and everybody is making a big deal out of it, but I've been smoking for years and I ain't got lung cancer. It's just a little bronchitis." Then she smoked.

Hmmm.... Well Grandma wasn't worried about lung cancer, why should I?

Grandma was a Certified Nurses Aide; she knew everything. I thought she was the smartest woman in the world.

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renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net | Source

Terminal lung cancer 6 months to live

Six years after I started smoking we were at Grandma's house. She had gone to the doctor a couple days before and didn't seem too concerned. We were having a get together with most the family present. I think she planned it that way.

The phone rings.

"Hello. mmmhmmmm. uh huh... ok. Alright. Bye."

The doctor told her she had terminal lung cancer. He gave her 6 months to live.

That evening I found her out in the shed smoking. I wanted to ask her what she was thinking, but with a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer, what reason did she have to quit smoking now?

For the first time, the significance of smoking hit me. I hadn't smoked in 3 months because I was pregnant and I was certain it would never happen again.

Grandma was still a spry woman and to look at her, she was the picture of health. I'd never seen anyone die from lung cancer, but this didn't seem too bad. I was sure we had a long time with her. How could a woman looking this good die within 6 months?

She started chemotherapy treatments almost immediately. At first she was still able to care for herself and we'd all returned to our perspective homes in other states. One nearby relative checked in on her regularly, so we were sure she'd let us know if things worsened.

About a month after the diagnosis, we got a phone call. Grandma had taken a turn for the worse and was too much for one person to care for.

I packed my things and moved to live with her.



Caring for Grandma in the Final Stages of Lung Cancer

I was excited to see Grandma. I don't think I'd grasped the full picture of what lung cancer can do to a person. The last time I'd seen her, we danced in the kitchen like kids.

I pulled into the driveway and she was standing at the door. At first, I wasn't sure it was her. I don't think Grandma had ever weighed over 115 pounds, but she looked like she would be lucky to weigh 90.

I ran up to hug her and she winced in pain. "Don't hug too tight Sissy. My back hurts."

I remember thinking, "She must have hurt her back. Poor thing." Little did I know, the cancer was eating her from the inside out, causing her pain.

Other than losing lots of weight, she didn't look sick. She wheezed a little when she talked and coughed the way she always did.

As the day went on, I noticed her getting tired faster than she ever had. She was always a busy little bee. She would rival a teenager with her ability to go, go go. Not now. Grandma would get weak from walking to the kitchen and back.

She kept sneaking off though. I'd go to check on her and the stinker was gone! Two or three times a day we'd play 'find the grandma.'

"Oh I just wanted to get some fresh air, it's stuffy in here." she'd say.

One day she was gone a little longer than normal. I looked all over and found her in the shed - SMOKING! If she hadn't coughed, I'd have never known. By now the cough was unmistakable. There was something very wrong. It was deeper, longer and scarier than it ever had been.

I was scared! I knew I was losing my grandmother very soon.

"Grandma, why don't you quit smoking?"

"This is my last one Sissy. I promise."

I caught her 2 more times after that and each time she would say the same thing. "This is my last one Sissy. I promise."

I came to realize the meaning of addiction. She couldn't stop even when her life was ending and it was making her miserable. I would say when her life depended on it, but it was too late for that.

About 6 weeks had gone by since her diagnosis. She got up from her day bed and walked across the living room toward the kitchen. I could tell she was running out of steam so I got up to help her. I asked her to sit back down, but she was insistent. "I can do it by myself."

I walked 2 steps behind her the 20 or so steps she took across the house. I feared any moment she would fall down and I'd have to catch her, but she made it. She sat in a little chair in front of the kitchen sink and breathed so heavily it scared me. You could see the fear in her eyes. I know she was questioning her next breath at that point, but she was proud and didn't complain.

She reached into the cabinet by the sink and grabbed a washcloth. Her breathing slowed as she bathed herself at the sink. She began to get up and sat back down.

"Sissy, somebody's going to have to help me get to my bed."

I picked up her tiny 70ish pounds in my arms and carried her to bed. She cried the entire way, half from the pain it caused in her back and half from sadness as she realized she'd lost her ability to move freely.

I gave her a bell to ring if she needed someone and she used it frequently, but one day there was a sound I hadn't heard before. I went to her room and you cannot imagine what I saw.

She was standing on top a chair in the corner of the bedroom, digging through the top of her closet.

Me: "Grandma! What in the world are you doing up there?"

Grandma: "I'm looking for something."

Me: "What? Get down off there and I'll get it for you."

Grandma: "No don't worry about it. It's not up there."

Later that evening, I smelled something coming from the bedroom. That's right! You guessed it. She was smoking!

She was so angry about me finding out, but this time she didn't promise it would be her last. Instead she told me, "These things will kill you and they're harder to put down than you think."

Wise words from a woman dying from lung cancer. It had taken her roughly 45 years to learn that lesson. But I ask you, did it matter?

Two weeks later, Grandma was placed in a nursing home. The level of care she needed far outweighed our expertise. Hospice nurses were coming day and night to give her pain medication, but it seemed never-ending. It wasn't a choice anyone liked, but it was necessary to provide her with the best care possible.

Less than 3 months after the doctor diagnosed my grandmother with terminal lung cancer, that evil disease took her life. Some would say she quit smoking in her bed that day at home, but I say she quit smoking the day she died. I feel if she'd gotten the chance, she would have smoked with her last breath.

I've struggled with smoking on an off since her death. It never ceases to amaze me how ridiculous I feel to smoke. How I quit smoking for over 5 years and then started again really makes me angry. I haven't talked myself into quitting again but remembering this story is helping. As much as I love Grandma, I don't want to die from lung cancer too. I just hope it's not too late.

When will you quit smoking? Have you ever stopped smoking to start again? If you knew, for a fact, you would hear the same diagnosis if you didn't quit, would you quit smoking?


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    • nishlaverz profile image

      nishlaverz 5 years ago from N.E England

      I know where your coming from. My dad had a really bad cough in Oct/Nov 2005 and was diagnosed with bronchitis. He had been a smoker for over 40 years at this point. A year later it happened again. This time he decided it was time to quit smoking. A few months passed and his cough did not get any better and so he was sent for more tests. It mush have been over 3 months later that they found the cancer in his lung. It was attached to the main archery and so was inoperable. He went for treatment and seemed to improve but then just a few months after his diagnosis it got him.

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      It's sad lung cancer is almost preventable, yet something we started as young "invincible" people is so hard to stop. I've quit before, my plan worked like a charm. In saying that, I must also say that if you are not ready I believe there's little that will work. I'm really sorry about your dad. Thanks for commenting.

    • lorenmurcia profile image

      lorenmurcia 5 years ago

      A moving story told expertly. This is a must-read for those who are smoking. I know it's hard to quit this habit but once they realize that they are not immune to lung cancer, maybe they'll start thinking.

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      lorenmurcia, I truly hope they will. I questioned writing about my own grandmothers experience, but I know as a CNA she would have wanted to help people. I honestly do not believe many people realize you can go from seemingly healthy with an occasional raspy cough to death in 3 months or less. Thank you for reading my hub.

    • CM Sullivan profile image

      CM Sullivan 5 years ago from California

      Very well written and touching story. As a smoker I can relate. I think it all comes down to a "It will never happen to me," attitude. If I knew it would however, I would be stocking up on chewing gum and suckers.

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      CM, Thank you for your comment. I think we'd all be better off to assume it will happen to us. Unfortunately, we don't because we live on "what if's" and the addiction makes us create excuses. When it's too late, it's just too late.

    • iain-mars profile image

      iain-mars 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very insightful hub. Thank you for sharing this

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you Iain-mars and thank you for stopping by.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      That is so sad, especially since she was taking steps to improve her situation only to be knocked down. Thank you for revealing this poignant moment. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you for commenting Alocsin, it is very sad.

    • bmukherjii profile image

      bmukherjii 5 years ago

      Today is "World Cancer Day"..we all should take a stand to fight against this disease. Doctors say, cancer can be prevented if people follow a healthy lifestyle..which includes avoiding alcohol consumption, staying physically active and not to mention quitting smoking.

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      I just wish the tobacco would stop growing. Sudden parasite takes it all out. Then we'd all be forced to quit. Hmmm. but then again, there would be something worse. Arg.

    • seanorjohn profile image

      seanorjohn 5 years ago

      Your Grandmother lived in an age when even doctors promoted smoking as "good for the throat".Hope yo succeed in finally giving up. Thanks for your encouragement on my post about quitting.

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      Sickening thought nowadays. A doctor telling you smoking can help you. A similar thing happened to me in the beginning with several bouts of asthma. A doctor told me if I smoked it wouldn't bother me as badly. What he failed to mention is later in life I'd be in a worse mess than a few asthma attacks.

      Thanks for commenting seanorjohn. Best of luck in your mission to quit.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 5 years ago from Central United States

      What many people don't know is cigarettes can cause death in more than just cancer. My father who smoked for over 50 years. He died because both lungs filled with fluid. Because he had smoked for so many years his last days were miserable. He was never able to get enough oxygen to keep him comfortable. Even when his lungs were filling he was smoking. It is honestly a wonder he didn't burn the house down because he smoked while he was on oxygen. Thanks for SHARING if this helps one person say No it was worth writing and sharing.

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      Wheelinallover, Thank you for sharing about your father. It is terribly sad this habit drives people to such depths. I'm truly sorry you had to lose him that way.

      Thanks for taking time to read and comment on my story.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Reading your hub made me realize how difficult it can be to quit smoking. For some, the thought of dying is enough to make them quit. For others, the addiction is just too much. Thank you for sharing your story about your grandma. I hope someone out there who reads this will be touch and decide to quit smoking today and choose the path to health instead.

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Do visit this hub and read and vote http://koffeeklatchgals.hubpages.com/hub/A-HubNugg... Blessings always...

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      Ripplemaker,

      It is terribly difficult to quit smoking. Even with the threat of dying from lung cancer and watching it happen to someone the addiction often wins.

      Thank you for commenting. I cannot believe I got nominated for a Hubnugget again. It is so humbling and unexpected. I appreciate it very much even if I do not win.

    • Earthy Mother profile image

      Earthy Mother 5 years ago from South East England

      This is a really well written experience of your time with your Grandmother...it had me gripped throughout. It just shows you how tightly addictions can hold us...I think a lot of it is just the delusion that we will quit it later, that it is not a problem. I really "enjoyed" your account and it painted a lovely picture of your relationship with your Grandmother xx

    • Tams R profile image
      Author

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you Earthy Mother,

      I miss her very much. I'm sure if she had known for sure this would happen, she would have quit long ago. Sadly, nobody knows if it will be them.

      I think in the mind of a smoker we can always do it tomorrow or next week, etc. Then one day it is "that day" and it is far too late.

      I think she got the attitude of why quit now, but I watched the way she was breathing or lack thereof and wondered how she even managed to inhale.

      Thank you for commenting and reading my article. xxoo!

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