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    Posted January 11, 2014 by
    New Hampshire
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The last cigarette

    Reasons to breathe


    The photo is of me, staged when I was a young punk, I didn't always love smoking, I actually was the last one in my group of friends who started, all so I could fit in and be "cool". That was 40 years ago, and I'm now 4 months along in my final battle to be smoke free. I watched my mother slide downhill for 12 years, finally to lose her battle with the butts to emphysema at 73, my dad went at 80 from basically the same thing. My mom didn't stop smoking till the 2 week stay in the ICU, a week after I watched her stovepipe breathing in her sleep, not Dad, he kept puffing till the last day before he died. I have other friends now who smoke, we all tried to quit together a few years back and failed, now we don't hang out together all that much anymore. Last summer, my dear friend a little old lady I loved like my second mom wasn't feeling too well and thought it was allergies making her cough, after all she HAD quit smoking 35 years ago. The doctor told her she had lung cancer which was stage 4 and had moved to her liver. Over the next 7 weeks I watched my friend who had prided herself on her independance fight a losing battle against cancer. It was horrible to witness her rapid decline, nothing I could say could make her well again. During this time, I had another much younger friend who had been given a diagnosis of breast cancer which had migrated into her lungs and had survived 9 rounds of chemo, tell me from her hospital room that she was positive that her cancer was curable, during the conversation my friend always a great listener, stopped me and said "I can hear you,You're smoking, aren't you?" When I said yes, she jumped off the phone fast. Yes, this verified to me that I sucked as a human being but it still wasn't enough to stop my huffing and puffing. Even as I held my older friend's hand while she lay dying, I still didn't get it. How could these wonderful people be leaving us and I was still here? I lost another friend in the last month of summer due to an accident and the funeral was on Sept.8th. As I made my way to where he was to be honored, I made sure to put out my butt as far away as I could so as not to offend anyone, a part of the horrible life I had been leading. There was a Navy honor guard for his service and when I ran into one of the men who took part at a local gas station later and got a withering look as he peered into my car and saw my ashtray filled with butts. Still not mortifiying enough. The thing that did it was the numbness I had been growing used to in my left arm, amazing how the addiction forced me to compromise even my life and health to keep it going. On Sept. 9th, I woke up at 4:20 in the morning and couldn't breathe, it felt like an anvil was on me in the bed, coughing I arose to still want to smoke, but this time I knew it wasn't an option anymore. I had toyed with the idea of doing the patch and had tried e cigarrettes before, but thought perhaps by tailoring my quit to a program maybe I could beat the butts for good this time.I started with the patch, and as the day would get to it's end, I'd take the patch off and have a puff on the e if I needed it, I kept at it every day and wondered about my other friend who was in the hospital and how she was doing. After a week off the butts, I messaged her online, she was happy I was trying, but for her the end came within a month of our last conversation. I'm still grieving for all 3 of my friends, but I know that they would be proud of me if they were still here. Still, the question persisted in my mind, why had my elder friend gotten cancer from smoking when she had quit so long ago? I believe it was the secondhand smoke she got while in the social clubs she liked to spend time in, and she really hated smoking. As for my other friend, so many questions remain unanswered in my heart, along with the still unanswered questions regarding the friend whose funeral became a turning point for me, I guess I may never know for sure why they weren't allowed to continue this life, but I do know that for as long as I'm still here, I've just got to keep on finding more reasons to breathe. Just going to it without smoke going in.....

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