i have multiple sclerosis. an incurable, progressive disease which has rooted itself firmly in my brain with no help or encouragement from me. at this writing, it is nothing more than a slowly increasing inconvenience for me and for those close to me. i am not in a great deal of pain, and what pain i do experience is not constant – it comes and goes. it’s not going to kill me. yes, there are quite a few things that i used to love to do that i can not longer do, thanks to MS. it is a frustration, but, to use a perhaps overused simplification, it is what it is. there is at best, little i can do about it. so, rather than let the frustration eat away at me, i struggle to accept it. not an easy thing, but what else can i do?
a very special friend, whom i have known since birth, was just diagnosed with some sort of throat cancer. i visited her a few months ago, before her diagnosis, and watched her struggle through bouts of painful coughing that would leave her gasping for breath several times a day, and kept her from sleeping more than a few hours at a time. i watched her wince in pain as she struggled to swallow her morning coffee. i heard recently from someone else close to her that not only had the coughing gotten worse, and that her doctor was talking about inserting a tracheal tube so that she could breathe, but that she had been diagnosed with throat cancer. her doctor apparently said it was almost definitely caused by her 40+ years of smoking. what is ironic is that she had a year or so ago quit smoking.
make no mistake, i was a dedicated smoker myself, starting in high school and continuing for 24 years, until right before my first child was born. i will readily admit to back-sliding many times, but i never re-acquired the habit again. i loved smoking, and i think it will miss it forever. i once even thought that, since i was already stricken with this crippling disease, what further harm could there be in taking up smoking again. but, try as i might, every puff not only set off alarm bells through every nerve in my body, literally paralyzing me where i sat for several minutes, but it also triggered a little voice in my head reminding me that smoking was perhaps the stupidest thing i could do. the disease i have to live with has nothing to do with my behavior – at least i can take some solace in the fact that i didn’t cause this.
and i would marvel at people who choose to smoke, and wonder why they would do such a thing. but i understand all too well why. i made that choice several times a day for more than 20 years. but from my perspective here, now, in my wheelchair, i watch people in otherwise perfect health light up and wonder why. back in high school and for many years afterwards, i believed i was invincible, i knew that disease would never touch me. i have had to face up to the hard fact that i am not (and actually never was) invincible, and that smoking cigarettes was, and still is, perhaps the stupidest thing i can do. there are a multitude of preventable diseases – most of them painful, many of them fatal – who’s primary cause is the continued inhalation of clouds of carcinogenic smoke. don’t get me started, because i could go on and on. the most cursory glance at the internet will cough up more information on the make-up of cigarette smoke than anyone can bear.
thought i do not want to become one of those annoying people who accost others and rant about the horrors of smoking, i ask for this slice of your day to remind you of what you already know, somewhere inside you – that smoking cigarettes is one of the stupidest things a person can do to themselves.
there, i said it. i will climb off my high horse, and return you to your regularly scheduled programming. thank you for your kind attention.