Doreen's Story

Discussion created by doreen1 on Jun 2, 2008
Latest reply on Jul 21, 2018 by mama3953
I am the oldest of four adult children who lost our parents way too early to the effects of cigarette smoking. I remember as a child we'd be riding in the car and begging our parents to roll down the windows so our eyes would quit burning and we could breathe - and getting yelled at by them for asking. I remember thinking that I would never smoke - it stunk - I couldn't breathe - it burned my eyes. But, when I was 18 and partying and drinking, cigarettes went one with the other. I still didn't like second hand smoke and tried to avoid it and would get really ticked off if someone would light up in a restaurant while I was still eating and the smoke came my way. Crazy, huh? But, for 27 years I smoked and created second hand smoke.

Just before Thanksgiving in 2001, my father (who had been having trouble swallowing) was diagnosed with esophagael cancer. The PET scan showed that it had already spread to some lymph nodes. His Thanksgiving dinner consisted of pureed sweet potatoes in one cup and pureed turkey, dressing and gravy in another cup. He underwent 6 weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy (still smoking the whole time) and once it was determined that they had killed off everything in the lymph nodes, he had surgery to remove the portion of his esophagus and stomach that was eaten up by the cancer. He was in the hospital for five weeks. I spent as much time at the hospital as I could - going almost every day after work. He was up and down the entire time. After surgery he was on a ventilator for a while and then put into a regular room - then he was back in ICU on a ventilator again and his lung collapsed, so they put in a chest tube. Then his chest tube leaked and his whole body filled up with air under the skin. You could literally press on his skin and feel the crackling of the air bubbles underneath. He got better and was put in a regular room again, but then was back in ICU because he couldn't breathe. The night before he died, I was with him. They were talking about putting him back into a regular room. I remember crying to my mother that I thought they were killing him. He was listless and I had to feed him because he couldn't do it himself. I helped him back into bed before I left and was in the hall talking to one of the nurses about my concerns when I glanced his way and he was watching me. He mouthed "I love you" and I blew him a kiss and said "I love you, too". My father was not a demonstrative man, so that was a big deal for him to do. We got a call at 4:30 the morning of June 29, 2002 and were told to get to the hospital ASAP. He was having trouble breathing again and they thought he had a blood clot. By the time we got to the hospital he was already gone - he was 63. I lost it - screaming hysterically "Noooo". His forehead was already cool, but his hands were still warm. He was flat on his back with the pillow thrown on the floor and the intubation tube sticking out of his mouth still. I freaked out again and the nurse had us leave the room while they took it out. When I went back in, he was still flat on his back and the pillow was still on the floor. There was a bit of blood by his mouth. I put the pillow under his head and washed his face and pulled the covers up like he was sleeping. When my mother came back into the room, she said he looked so peaceful and better than he had in a long time. I still don't know to this day if she realized that I was the one to fix him up after they took the tube out.

Mom had been having troubles with shortness of breath for quite a while and after Dad passed, it progressively got worse. She continued to smoke over a pack a day - even after she was put on a bi-pap machine with oxygen for sleeping and a nasal canula during the day. She would take the oxygen off when she wanted to smoke. Right after Thanksgiving in 2004 (two years after Dad passed), she was put in the hospital because she couldn't breathe. She lied to the nurse doing the intake and said she had quit smoking when it was obvious she was lying because you could smell it on her and the rest of us. I was so upset that she lied that I left the hospital. She was released the next day, but was back in again less than a week later and her breathing was a whole lot worse this time. The doctor recommended putting her on a ventilator in order to administer medications directly to her lungs and to "give her lungs a break". She agreed, but it was soon apparent that she was a whole lot worse than everyone thought. Everytime they tried to wean her off the ventilator, her O2 sats dropped below 70 and they'd have to put it back up. Then she got a fungus in her lungs and there was blood in her urine. Her body was shutting down. She had a living will and when the doctor said there was nothing more that could be done for her, we had no choice but to enforce it. She was taken off the ventilator around 11pm on December 13, 2004 and my youngest sister and I sat by her bedside for the next 3+ hours while the hospice nurse gave her meds to keep her comfortable and we watched her slipping away from us. She kept foaming at the mouth and towards the very end it was coming out her nose and we couldn't keep her suctioned clean. Her body finally gave out and she was gone in the wee hours of December 14, 2004 - just 2½ years after we lost our father, now our mother was gone too - also at the age of 63.

That experience left me in such an emotional turmoil. I didn't want my children to ever have to go through what I did with my mother. So, on April 17, 2006 at 6am, I had smoked my last cigarette and I've never gone back. It wasn't an easy time - as I am sure you all know. Cigarette smoking is an addiction that some say is worse than a heroine addiction. The nicodemon played all kinds of games with my mind. And when my stress levels get high, that crave has been known to hit me out of nowhere - even after all this time.

But, I know I've done the right thing by quitting. I had an awesome support group that saw me through the good, bad and ugly. Now its my time to "Pay It Forward". My desire is to help others become smoke free in the way I was helped. Thank you for reading my story..............

Doreen - Smoke-Free and Healing for Two Years, One Month, Fifteen Days.