It’s a memory as fresh as yesterday’s although more than 50 years have gone.
Two newly wed kids, just 21 and 18, after a nice dinner at home in our little apartment. I light up. Lucky Strike.
“Can I try one?” says my new bride.
“Are you sure? You don’t want to pick this up” says I.
“Oh let me try!” says she.
So I gave the only woman I ever loved her first smoke – with my own hand.
We lived our lives. Raised our kids. Buried two or our four children together. She smoked. She switched to a filter – but she smoked.
I stopped in my early ’30s. She never did.
She always worried about those few pounds she might gain. She never really tried. Maybe she knew in her heart she couldn’t quit. I never hounded her about it. We buried two sons – one in infancy and one at ten. I wasn’t going to add to her burdens.
In 2003 I retired early. We had the money. The daughters were grown. We were going to do all of the things we wanted to do together but never had the time.
She had been having back pains. Ben-gay. “Hey you’re getting to be an old lady!” Laugh.
The pain got worse. We postponed our trips.
Slipped disk? Maybe. Soon she needed a walker. Then she couldn’t go up the stairs. I had a hospital bed brought into our living room.
When her doctor saw her he immediately committed her to hospital.
She had end stage lung cancer, metastasized to her spine and right leg.
She gave up. She never came home.
She died four months after the start of what was supposed to be the best time in our lives.
She never coughed once. Not once.
She was 58 years old.
She started smoking at a time when movie stars, “sophisticates” and celebrities smoked. I started smoking when I was 13. While there is much awareness today about the danger of smoking there was little in 1960. Only the tobacco companies really knew and they weren’t telling.
So lung cancer is now considered by many and, dare I say, demeaned by some, as a “life style” disease – when the words “lung cancer” are spoken the next words are usually “Did she smoke?” Then comes the look that says “Well, c’est la vie”. The look that says “what did you expect?”
Not so with breast cancer. Think Pink! This is breast cancer awareness month!
Breast cancer apparently strikes the innocent; those who have done nothing to bring on their fate. It’s a good campaign to support. Innocent people. Moms. Not obese people. Not drinkers. Not smokers.
And not lungs. Or colons. Breasts.
Maybe its me but sometimes I think there is a certain smugness and commercialism around the Think Pink campaign that I find somewhat disconcerting as if there exists a meritocracy among those with different diseases – as if someone cursed with breast cancer is morally superior and more deserving of sympathy than someone with lung cancer because its not a “life style” disease.
Obviously having one disease does not make one morally superior to someone with another. I know that. Breast cancer is a serious deadly disease. So why does it bother me to see young bouncy women in pink brassieres fighting yet another “war?” Help me out here people.
More women will die of lung cancer than breast, colon, pancreatic and prostate cancer combined. And more women will die of heart disease.
This weekend I will watch my share of football and the smiling happy healthy girls and defensive ends in Pink “fighting” breast cancer. Sorry, but it’s a little too commercial for my taste. All you need is the cheerleaders. It is the blatant commercialism of Think Pink movement which I find disconcerting. Reebok making money selling pink sneakers and teenage girls wearing “Save the ta-tas” t-shirts. Cancer is not a football game.
Don’t mind me. I’m just being cranky today; Maybe because it’s October; maybe because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month; maybe because I know I gave her the first one.