Smoking-related disease is snatching our beloved family members and friends away from us at an alarming rate. According to the World Health Organization, smoking related-diseases kill one in 10 adults globally, causing four million deaths a year.
While some of the accounts in this collection are heartbreaking and difficult to read, they are stark reminders of what might lie ahead of us if we don't stop smoking.
My heartfelt thanks go out to all who have shared their very personal and often painful stories here with us in the effort to help save lives...your life, dear reader.
This quit story is an especially poignant one...compiled and narrated by About.com Smoking Cessation forum
member, Catherine (forum ID: Catherine2007), it serves as a tribute to a very special woman, Jacki (forum ID: PrettyMomma5). Sadly, Jacki was unable to share her own story due to the the smoking-related disease she suffers from. Please read Jacki's quit story and take the underlying message to heart: smoking-related disease can strike at any age, and when it does, it ruins our quality of life long before it kills us.
Ex-smoker Michelle Boisvert suffers from degenerative disc disease (DDD). Diagnosed at the age of 33, she has since learned that cigarette smoking is a leading risk factor for DDD. From Michelle:
"I was diagnosed with severe DDD in 1998 when I was 33 years old and still a smoker. Although genetic predisposition is the #1 risk factor, a growing number of studies indicate that smoking is a leading risk factor for DDD, both in the lumbar discs (lower back) and cervical discs (neck)."
Christine Rowley was the Guide here at About.com Smoking Cessation from 1997-2003. She helped more people quit smoking than we could ever begin to count. Sadly, we lost Christine in July of 2004 when she succumbed to a stroke. I think she'd be pleased to know how much her words continue to help those people working to quit smoking. Thanks, and may you rest in peace, Christine.
"Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Graves disease. This is an overactive thyroid condition. One of the things that can happen is that eye problems can occur. Fatty tissue builds up behind the eyes and makes them protrude forward. Not everyone who gets Graves has eye problems, but if you smoke, you are four times as likely to develop them. When I was diagnosed with Graves disease, the physicians told me to quit smoking so that my eyes would not get worse."
Walt's story is particularly compelling because what happened to him could happen to any smoker, especially those of us who have spent many years of our lives smoking cigarettes. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of death caused by smoking. Smoking is hard on the heart and the toxins in cigarette smoke cause plaques to form in the arteries, which leads to atherosclerosis, otherwise known as hardening of the arteries
Cheryl was diagnosed with stage IV small cell lung cancer in November of 2003. As devastating as this was, she managed to step outside of her own pain in order to share her very personal story with all of us here. It was her most cherished hope that her journey through lung cancer might help others avoid the same fate, a goal she accomplished many times over. Thousands of people all over the world have read Cheryl's story, along with the second installment of her story below.
In part two of Cheryl's story, called The Healing World, Cheryl describes what life is like inside the walls of the cancer treatment center. From Cheryl:
"I watched and observed others in my condition. The experienced ones in the treatment rooms helped me along the way. They were kind and honest. Slowly, slowly, layer by layer, my old life's needs, wants and priorities were being stripped away. Those layers were useless to me now."
At 49 young years of age, Dee was diagnosed with stage 1B non-small cell lung cancer. In her own words she thought of herself as fit and invincible, but her story is proof that the smoking-related diseases are indiscriminate. They can strike anyone at any time. Dee's story cuts through the rose-tinted view we often have of smoking and forces us to see this addiction for what it is: a ruthless killer. There is no romance in smoking, and cigarettes are not our friends.
After 36 years of smoking and a diagnosis of emphysema, Gay put her cigarettes down for the last time on October 21, 2002. In March 2007, Gaylene received the shocking news that she had small cell lung cancer. And if this weren't bad enough, there was more: By the time doctors found her cancer, it had spread to her thyroid and lymph nodes. True to her caring nature, Gaylene kept a journal that detailed what she went through during the 5 months of cancer treatments that followed her diagnosis.
Oral cancer is a horrible disease, and one that most smokers fear. It's hard to imagine losing your voice, let alone going on to "speak" before groups of children, using the disease as a powerful example to help them avoid smoking. This is just what Marlene does today though, every chance she gets. She is a remarkable woman, and is nothing short of inspirational. I hope that her story touches you as it has me.
Paul had been smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day for approximately 30 years, when at the young age of 43, he suffered a stroke that rendered him helpless for a number of months. From Paul:
"Smoking had weakened blood vessels, "furred" the actual surfaces; reducing blood-flow and causing said veins and arteries to contract. The poisons in the cigarettes, together with a party lifestyle, alcohol and soft drug use like marijuana had put me at risk for having a stroke, I was later told."