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GOING UP IN SMOKE
12 March 2003
I couldnt believe it. In among all the penis enlargement ads, Viagra ads (temporary penis enlargement, I guess), the porn spam and ads for cheap Vicodin came a piece of spam that intrigued me.
"Bev Sykes, start smoking today!" it proclaimed in excited hyperbole.
It was an ad for cheap cigarettes and here was my chance to add yet another life-threatening behavior to my already long list. Whadda deal!
Like most kids, I guess, I did try smoking when I was in high school. A stolen cigarette smoked quickly in the bathroom of our small flat, denying it to my smoking father when he went into the bathroom and smelled the smoke. I bought a pack of Kools (I was kool, obviously) and smoked 2 cigarettes, realized I didnt like it at all, and threw the rest of the pack away. That was my last attempt to smoke. It had nothing to do with health, merely that it didnt taste good and I didnt like it.
Over the years Ive been very grateful for that decision.
I come from a long line of people with lung problems. My father had asthma, as did my sister. The doctors told my mother Karen would have been an invalid without the asthma shots she took twice a week for most of her life. Before the advent of injections, my father lived with a breathalizer. At times his asthma was so bad he would literally crawl down the hall at night trying to find a way to breathe.
My mother is from a family of ten, eight of whom have died. All died of lung-related diseases (emphesyma or lung cancer). All of them smoked. The two who remain, my mother and my aunt Barb, do not smoke. Both did when they were younger. I dont know when Barb gave it up, but my mother stopped smoking when she was pregnant with me. Barbs daughter smoked very heavily for many years and finally give it up two years ago, mostly because she could no longer breathe. She is left with residual problems that make us worry about her health. She is younger than I and weighs less than I do, but she cant walk across a room without gasping for breath.
Another cousin was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. She no longer smokes either, but did for many years.
Obviously people in my family are not supposed to smoke.
When our kids were younger they were adamant crusaders against smoking. I tried to encourage them in that resolve, and pointed out that they were doubly at risk because not only did they have genes from my side of the family, but also from Walts. His uncle also died of emphysema (and was a smoker). I told them that Im not against smoking for smokings sake, but there are just some families with that genetic predisposition for lung cancer and our family was such a family. It would be crazy for them to get into the habit of smoking. Yet, they all began to smoke sooner or later (except Jeri, because she knows better). I never see Tom or Ned smoking any more, so I assume they at least dont smoke heavily, if they smoke at all.
But now I find out that fat is a bigger killer of people than smoking.
Here I was feeling so virtuous because I never smoked, but Ive been carrying around my own walking (or waddling) ticking time bomb for most of my life.
Is my on-again, off-again dedication to health issues going to be too little too late? I seem to keep coming up against all of those people who drop dead of heart attacks in their late 50s and early 60s. The psychiatric reports I pounded out like an assemby line yesterday seemed rife with examples of people younger than I who suddenly suffered severe cardiac problems and either died or ended up in convalescent hospitals. Its enough to make you need to turn off the computer and go out for another walk.
My only consolation, if there should be one, is that if I follow the logic that I presented to my kids about smoking. Not only do I come from a long line of smokers who died of lung related diseases, I also come from a long line of people with weight problems who didnt seem to suffer the standard weight-related problems.
Even at my highest weight, my cholesterol was only a little over borderline. Thats not good, of course, but Ive known people with healthier lifestyles whose cholesterol goes soaring.
So my only hope is that while I have abused this body with chocolate and butter for most of my life, that I have enough good genetic material that my attempts to become a born-again healthy eater will keep me alive and kicking (and biking and walking) for a number of years yet.
At least I dont smoke.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Isn't this an amazing photo?
Weight Lost to date:
(yes really--didn't change this week...)