What made you
I really don’t know. Everyone was doing it:
my friends, my parents, all of society. I guess I never really understood why it was so wrong, so I
never thought it was bad. Also, because my parents smoked, I grew up believing that it
wasn’t a bad thing.
With all the risks, why did you
continue to smoke?
Honestly, no one told me about the risks. I know
they state them now on the carton, but I never noticed. It was very stupid.Here’s my deal
... you read about it in the papers and see on TV how people die of lung cancer, and they
don’t even smoke. So, tome, way back then, why was that any
How old were you when you started? Who was the
first person to give you a cigarette?
I was 16 years old and just
hanging out at my friend Bobby’s house when his older brother came home with some
friends.They were all smoking. Bobby asked his brother for one, and he gave him two cigarettes - one
for each of us. That was the first one I ever tried. After that, I was
How did you pay
I stole some cigarettes from my parents, but I mostly
stole money from them to buy cigarettes. Bobby and I had his brother pick up cigarettes for us all
the time. Until I went to college, I was only smoking a pack a day. Then gradually it became two.
Then when I was married with a kid, it jumped up to three packs a
When did you find out that you had lung cancer?
I was coughing all the time. One day I was sitting in my office and for some
reason, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My secretary came in and saw me struggling for
breath. She called 911 and they sent an ambulance. I was diagnosed with cancer in October of 2002. I
How did the cancer diagnosis affect your family and
My wife Pam and my daughter Julie, who was 23, took it very
badly. They were both traumatized, as was I. I couldn’t even begin to think of the reality
of the situation. Because I wasn’t working, the cash flow was down, and my family really
ended up suffering a great deal because of my bad habit.
did you go into the hospital?
I was admitted when I was diagnosed. At
first, the cancer was just in one lung but it grew and expanded into the other. The doctors were
going to remove my left lung, but since the cancer spread,they had me start
How did you meet
We went to the same college - Ohio State. I loved it there.I
majored in engineering and she majored in education. We met at a party, hit it off and have been
together ever since.
Did she know you smoked? Was she against
Yes, she knew I smoked,but it didn’t seem to bother her
that much because when I met her,I wasn’t smoking very much. However, after we had our
daughter, my smoking got really bad. That is when Pam started to
Did you ever feel guilty about smoking in front
of your family knowing that you could be harming them with secondhand smoke?
Of course I did, but I couldn’t control myself. One day,
when my daughter was 13, she came home, saw me smoking and flipped out. I have never seen her that
upset. She asked why I smoked and why couldn’t I stop. I didn’t know what to say
except that I couldn’t, I was addicted. Ever since that day, she and I have not been very
Why was your daughter so against
Right before she yelled at me for smoking,
her friend’s grandpa had died from smoking. My daughter was concerned about me and
didn’t want that to happen to me. We could have been close, but I chose cigarettes over my
Did you ever try to quit? What methods did you try?
Yes, because my family was so worried about me. I tried to quit for
them, but I always failed. I tried everything: the gum, the patch ... I tried stopping gradually and
one time I tried just to stop altogether. I got acupuncture to relax me and was even hypnotized, but
none of that worked. I never have been able to quit.
cancer better now because you were on chemo?
Yes, but only to a
point.Going through chemo was very rough. I was on it for a year. Now after that time, it is
apparent I need more, the doctors don’t know exactly how
How did the chemo affect you and your family?
I always felt tired, weak and groggy. Also, I suffered from hair loss and
eventually become bald. It was a rough process. I think my family was the most affected because I
felt like I was hurting them. Every time they came to see me, I felt like I was putting a
knife through their hearts. Because of the chemo, I barely saw my wife
What advice do you have for
Don’t do it. It can harm you in so many
ways you don’t realize until it actually happens. If you end up like me, it is not worth it
to have gone through all the pain and suffering. Now I realize I have hurt many too many people
because of my stupid mistake.
Do you feel any regret because
of your choice to smoke?
Absolutely. I have ruined my life, my
wife’s life and my daughter’s life. I have ruined my relationships with both of
them. I have lived with that mistake and knowing how bad it hurt my family will always be my biggest
regret. I have hurt them immensely because they both warned me about smoking. They both wanted me to
quit.But I was selfish and didn’t listen. I did this to myself, and I will never live that
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.