by James R. Campbell
I am writing this piece in hopes of reaching others who smoke, and those who are former smokers. I would like to begin by bringing the readers up to date on my latest visit with Dr. Merra, my health care provider.
This visit was originally set up as a follow-up visit to make sure my blood sugar is in check, as I am pre-diabetic. Things in that area have improved somewhat. My blood pressure was good, and I lost seven pounds since June.
Dr. Merra noticed my breathing was off; it has been damp in Odessa lately. In fact, we had a thundershower before Dear left for Day care this morning.
The doctor had one of her nurses run a breathing test on me. This is quite an adventure in and of itself. The test requires one to do certain breathing exercises while they use a mouthpiece that is connected to a machine. The results are plotted on a graph. According to the information that was collected, I am in the beginning stages of COPD.
When I discussed this with Dr. Merra, I told her that I hadn’t smoked since 1992. She told me that the damage was done, that there were changes in my lung function as a result of the fact that I did smoke at one time.
I always functioned under the impression that if you stopped smoking that this damage was healed. Not so Fast! That is true only in part. Evidently, it doesn’t work out that way.
When we are young, and engaging in any addictive behavior, we don’t stop to think of the long-term consequences of what we are doing. Unfortunately, when it comes to nicotine, the cigarettes win out over the pleas of family and friends. This was true with me. I owe a debt to Lisa’s grandmother that I can’t repay. Lisa is my favorite cousin; Aunt Hellen Dillingham is Dear’s older sister by eighteen years. On May 8, 1983, she told us that her granddaughter was allergic to cigarettes. That did it. I was smoking two and a half packs a day. Began cutting down on June 1st of that year. I
But there was a problem. Dad smoked; this led me to smoke when he was around as a result of exposure to his smoking. I finally quit completely in 1992.
I remember an incident that happened in November of 2008. The doctors told my brother-in-law that he had the lungs of an eighty year old man, all because he smoked. Somehow, the subject of my past smoking came up. Lisa was visiting us at that time. She said,
“I am glad he decided to quit for me, if he hadn’t, we would be taking care of him.”
I called her the other day and told her that I was paying for my raising. I picked up the habit at TSB, not due to peer pressure, as some might assume, but out of rebellion and self-assertion. I wanted to show Mom and Susie how much control they had over my life. At the time, I could see no other way. Nobody is to blame but me; I am responsible! It’s my price to pay. Mom and Susie didn’t light that first cig and make me take that first long drag, even though they had a lot to do with the choice I made.
There are some people who smoke for so long that they can’t breathe if they don’t smoke. I don’t quite understand how that works, but it happens. My cousin Nick Dillingham, (the youngest son of the late Hellen Dillingham), was like that. He smoked until he died in May of this year, because he said he couldn’t breathe if he didn’t smoke. That’s pretty bad, when you can’t breathe if you can’t smoke.
I smoked for eighteen years, now, I am in the beginning stages of COPD. Due to my poor choice, I spend at least an hour a day on a nebulizer. This is one more thing my cherished aunt has to help me with due to my blindness.
My tip: I won’t preach at those who smoke, because I smoked. However, they should take note; this is what they may expect if they do!
About the Author
James R. Campbell, 61, is poet and writer living with total blindness. He has a Bachelor’s in psychology. He has written articles for the Matilda Ziegler Magazine and Consumervision. A a member of Behind our Eyes, Campbell has three poem collections on CD. They can be downloaded at Recordinglibrary.org. In his free time, he likes cooking, playing harmonica, reptiles, and keeping up with current events.