There’s something that’s been bothering me that I’ve been pretending doesn’t bother me and every time it comes up, I get a little more pissed than the last time it came up. It would seem that if I just wrote about it here that this might relieve some of the tension or perhaps help me to think out loud what the issue really is and how to address it.
For clarity’s sake, I’m going to call the big C by its real name of CANCER instead of my preferable ‘candy.’
Hook had or has cancer. We don’t know if he still has it. We don’t know if the surgeons were able to remove all of the tumor from his pancreas. We won’t know anything until a CAT scan is done, and we’re not sure when that scan will be approved – in a month maybe. We wait in limbo, again, but we’ve gotten good at limbo. Although we don’t welcome the world of the in-between, we accept it.
From the time Hook was diagnosed eight months ago, people have said out loud to me or to someone else, “Well, he smoked.” Or, they’ve referenced a story about how a loved one of theirs had cancer, too, and they’ll add, “But they didn’t smoke,” or “My <relative> died of <some type of> cancer and they never smoked a day in their life.” Sometimes if they don’t know me or my husband, they’ll ask, “Did he smoke?”
When someone says these things or I hear them secondhand or I read them in a message, a barrage of emotions and thoughts start pumping through my mind and my body. It’s difficult for me not to see that person in a whole new light, a dingy hue of ugly. Do they mean to be tactless, without compassion, gross? I don’t know. I hope not.
What I do know is that we all have certain things that we find intolerable. For a good majority of the population, smoking and smokers fit into this category. Until cancer hit, Hook’s smoking never bothered me. I knew he was a heavy smoker when I married him. It was an irrelevant point for me.
But now, trying to force Hook into quitting this deeply ingrained habit of his was an undertaking almost as big as the cancer itself. There have been stormy arguments full of screaming and yelling, cajoling until the wee hours of the morning, quitting ultimatums given over and over and over again. At one point, I threatened to inject chemo into his head if he didn’t stop smoking. Hook found out the hard way that his addiction to smoking was bigger than he was. So big he wasn’t able to admit it was ever an addiction, an addiction not a whole lot different than any other drug.
I’m not blaming smoking. Cigarettes didn’t make my husband smoke them. Hook chose to smoke. It was a very conscious choice. He has stopped by the way. Hook has been smoke free for almost 90 days now after having smoked in large quantities for about 30 years. It’s okay to clap. I do every day.
Regardless whether a person smoked or didn’t smoke, no one deserves cancer. Is that what you believe? Do you believe that Hook deserved to have cancer? Or worse, that’s what he gets for smoking? That’s what he gets because he knew smoking causes cancer. That’s what he gets and he deserves to die a wretched death for choosing to smoke or he deserves to survive a damaged life. Is that what you believe?
Every time you say something like this, that’s what you’re suggesting even if you don’t realize that that is exactly what you just said.
Do You Drive a Car?
If you drive and you get into a car accident and mangle your body, is that what you deserve? Driving causes accidents (we have the data) and by driving as much as you do, you could be in accident and every time you CHOOSE to get on the road to drive, you are purposely putting yourself in harm’s way. And don’t say you have to drive because nobody has to drive. You’re not addicted to it are you? It’s not like you feel you’re going over the edge if you don’t drive do you?
You have other choices yet you choose to drive. And before you say that driving isn’t a disgusting habit that harms the environment and which people find offensive, then you haven’t talked to a bicyclist lately. It’s not the best example but it will suffice.
Yes, I know it’s hard for you to filter your thoughts and not to wonder, But what did he think would happen? I get that you might think that and I thank you, those of you who didn’t say that out loud, I thank you for sparing my feelings to the obvious.
A normal person, a good person, a decent human being catches themselves. They hold back before that cruel, heartless thought moves from their brain to their tongue and to my ear. Because if we’re going to be judged on our faults, then:
- Those who drive deserve to die in an accident.
- Those who consume processed foods of any kind deserve to die of clogged arteries or a heart attack or heart disease or <pick something>.
- Those who drink milk or eat eggs or consume dairy products of any kind deserve to die of a digestive tract infection.
- Those who color their hair deserve to die of leukemia.
- Those who eat salt deserve to die from complications brought on by a stroke.
- Those who never exercise regardless of weight deserve to die of varicose veins.
- Those who drink more than 1 soda a day deserve to die of complete and utter stupidity.
I made up the varicose vein one but stand fast by the soda thing.
Can We All Agree On One Thing?
I don’t want to be upset about this anymore, and I don’t want people to say these things anymore. If these cruel thoughts enter your mind (and we are all guilty of having thoughts we wish we never had), resist the urge to speak them out loud. Please. Especially if you’re talking to someone who’s loved one has cancer.
Resist the urge to blame a man’s weakness for not giving up this one vice. I’ll even agree that smoking is a disgusting vice. There, I said it, okay, are you happy and will you shut up now? The smokers know it’s disgusting (not really). You don’t have to tell them that. Actually, every time you do, you insure their dedication to continue smoking because smoking is linked to some inner rebellious I-never-grew-up feeling of doing-whatever-the-hell-I-want-no-matter-the-consequences. Don’t believe me? Read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.
We all have our vices. Every single one of us. You are far from perfect. You are not without flaws or weaknesses. If you think you are, I’ll gladly spend the day with you and happily point out all of your flaws. Trust me, it won’t take me but a minute to see them.
My husband did not and does not deserve cancer. No one deserves cancer, not smokers or milk drinkers or processed food eaters. And drivers don’t deserve to die a fiery death just because they choose to drive a big, clunk of steel 80 miles an hour down a highway or 18 miles an hour down a neighborhood street.
Yes, smoking is the leading cause of cancer. Yes, if you smoke, you increase astronomically your chances of getting cancer. We all agree on that. Can we also all agree that NO ONE deserves cancer?