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she's so dead to us

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Smoking Sucks

Well, I've completely tanked on my resolution to blog at least once a week, but I kind of knew that was going to happen when I made said resolution. The problem is, every time I try to think about what to write about, I don't know if I should write something personal or try to come up with something more shallow, so as not to put my real life out there for people to read an analyze and talk about. But lately there's been one personal thing dominating my thoughts so much I can't really think about anything else. So I've decided to write about it.

My mom is in the hospital for the sixth time in two years. She's only 66. I know that sounds ancient to a lot of people, but it's not. Or it shouldn't be. Not in this day and age. But right now, if you met my mom, who used to be the strongest, feistiest, funniest, most engaging person I know, you'd think she was 99. And all because she could never quit smoking.

Here's the thing. Everyone knows smoking is bad, but when you're told that in high school and you're shown the pictures of the dirty lungs or the corroded heart or whatever you think "Yeah, whatever, that's not gonna happen to me." Which makes sense. You feel invincible when you're young, and I get that. And part of me thinks kids deserve to feel that. But it's also kind of stupid. Because none of us are invincible. And those pictures of dirty lungs and corroded hearts are stupid, too, because it doesn't translate into anything real. You don't know--you can't FEEL how having those symptoms will really affect your life. So let me tell you what I've seen my mom go through lately.

In 2000 she came down with throat cancer due to smoking. The chemo and radiation saved her life, temporarily, but we now know that they also started a slow deterioration process in her neck. A few years after the treatment she started getting severe laryngitis for about six weeks each winter. Then, she started having trouble eating. She couldn't swallow properly. Food would go down the wrong way and she'd choke. At first this was once in a while, but over the years it became more frequent to the point that she can't eat a meal without choking about every fifteen seconds. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Just imagine trying to get through a cheeseburger or even a bowl of Cheerios while choking into a paper towel every fifteen seconds. Not fun.

Meanwhile, thanks to the radiation damage AND the fact that her arteries are all clogged from the smoking, she had a stroke in August and now she can't walk without a walker or cane. Then, last Thursday, she fainted in the bathroom and slammed her head on the wall and passed out and she's been in the hospital ever since.

What we've now learned is she has pneumonia because food got in her lungs and irritated them and they got infected. She has low blood pressure from the clogged arteries and low oxygen from the pneumonia, so she's on an oxygen tank. She can't eat anymore, so they're going to insert a feeding tube into her abdomen so that food can be directly inserted into her stomach. So here we have a 66 year old woman, who a year ago was vibrant and happy and she

a) can't talk
b) can't eat
c) can't breathe on her own
d) can't walk on her own
e) can't be left alone because she might faint and
f) is severely depressed (as you might imagine)

Part of me wishes I could bring everyone I know who smokes into her room to talk to her and see if she says she doesn't regret smoking. I know it's so hard to stop, but God, if you could feel the way she's felt for the last five days even for five minutes, I bet you would work your ass off to quit. So do me a favor people, don't start. Because I don't want anyone else I care about to go through this. Ever.

And I thought putting this down in words would make me feel better, but it didn't. Probably because I love my mom so much this is killing me. And my sister. And all her friends. It just sucks.