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Smoker Robert This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     What made you start smoking?

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 different?


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 hooked.


How did you pay for them?

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 day.


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 was 55.


How did the cancer diagnosis affect your family and work?

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.


When 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 chemotherapy.


How did you meet your wife?

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 it?

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 dislike it.


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 close.


Why was your daughter so against you smoking?

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 family.


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.


Is your 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 long.


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 and daughter.


What advice do you have for current smokers?

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 down.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Zazawish777 said...
Aug. 21, 2010 at 9:16 pm:
This is a very good article.  I can connect with this.  My friends grandparents smoked.
 
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