Monday, November 14, 2005

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Sadly, this disease, which kills more Americans than ANY other cancer (source: Lung Cancer Alliance) gets proportionately WAY less press and WAY less funding than other far less deadly cancers...such as breast and prostate cancers. It also has a hefty portion of ugly stigma attached to it, notwithstanding that 60 percent of those who are diagnosed have never smoked or quit smoking decades before their diagnosis.

Any regular reader of this blog knows by now that my dad, Jeffrey, was diagnosed with lung cancer in March of this year. Jeff is a non-smoker and had already survived prostate cancer seven years earlier. As a cancer survivor, myself, this hit me fairly hard, since it forced me to confront the fact that having survived one cancer does not mean that you won't get another. More globally, I had to face what I am always talking to my students about in yoga class: that things happen, and there's not much we can do about any of it. We can accept the waves as they crash over us, for better or for worse, or we can suffer. That's about it as far as choices go.

But I digress.

My dad has been doing really well (cue all the various cultural anti-jinx sound effects). His cancer, which was diagnosed at a late stage at a routine physical, with no symptoms other than a cold that hadn't seemed to go away for about two months, is now in remission. Which is to say that he responded UNUSUALLY well to his chemotherapy, which caused all of his hair to fall out and which left him with angry red welts all over his face during the first couple of months. I am guessing that his excellent response to his treatment is due in large part to the fact that my dad is a non-smoker.

It has been theorized that non-smokers do better with chemo for lung cancer, that their survival rate is higher. Yes, I know, this only feeds the stigma. BUT, it also sends an important message. Don't smoke. And if you do, quit.

I was at a 40th birthday party out in the burbs last Friday night. The crowd was very stylish, very fashionable, very affluent and for the most part, very brainy. Yet every few minutes the front door kept opening. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was noticing this, but nothing really clicked until one of the "girls" came in from the cold, carrying with her not the smell of the fresh outdoors, but a cloud of cigarette smoke. The "girls", it turned out, liked to have a cigarette with their cocktails. Smoking in the girls room has grown up, apparently, and now it's outside of the bar, fueled by alcohol.

I won't say I never enjoyed a smoke with a drink, and if you've read my memoir, Beauty and the Beast, you'll know that I spent a couple of self-destructive months right after my breast cancer diagnosis at Lenox doing just that (it was pre-smoking ban, 2002). But the reality is: it's just plain dumb.

Don't do it. I know you Ashtangis out there don't need to be told this. But the rest of you out there...please don't smoke.


1 comment:

he's dead, jim! said...

Smoking is one of the most disgusting things a person can do to her body. Not only does the smoker smell and look awful, she ruins her insides as well.

Circulation is compromised. This means that less blood gets to faraway places. Like bones when they break. Like the clitoris. To name a couple.

It's also the most addictive habit there is. It's more addictive than heroin. And that, my friends, is ON PURPOSE.


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About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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