Saturday, August 16, 2008

A choice that has saved my life -- so far

I really should write a note to my ex-husband, Carl, and thank him for his efforts in getting me to quit smoking. I really owe him for that. I certainly wouldn’t have taken that first step if it hadn’t been for him. One night, just after the surgeon general’s report on smoking came out in 1964, he blocked the doorway so I couldn't get my usual cigarette after dinner. He said I didn’t need that smoke. He was right. I didn’t. and I quit then and there.

I didn't admit I had quit right away. I carried a pack around with me for a while, and I still had them in a cigarette box on the coffee table of our apartment for a month or two until the ciggies got stale. But once that smell of smoke left both our home and my clothes, I was really done, I never really looked back.

We were still allowed to smoke at work in those days, and ash trays were on all the desks. I remember once a couple of years after I quit one of my work colleagues tried to temp me, and I took a couple of puffs. But I said, no. I’m not going to do this. If I had I would have been stuck like Sam who died a few weeks ago of lung cancer -- a wonderful man and artist I met at work way back in 1963 -- or my brother, Kenny, or my dear friend and colleague, Adele, or my high school heart throb, Gene -- the handsome guy who gave me my first cigarette and who thought it was so cool to exchange smoke during a French kiss. They all are gone from the effects of smoking. Sure, Kenny didn’t die of lung cancer. But he died from the cure. Radiation cured his cancer and kept him alive over 20 years after his diagnosis, but it destroyed his body anyway. Yesterday would have been his 71st birthday. He left us much too soon.

Well, that’s a choice I made early on. One that I can be proud of. I only wish my other loved ones had done the same. We certainly were warned. By 1964 we knew that smoking was bad for us. Unfortunately, too many people were already hooked. I was lucky I chose to quit, and I was lucky I easily beat the addiction.

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