I got a stark reminder today of the reason why I gave up cancer for Lent.
It causes too much pain and too much grief. I got news this morning a friend just found out both her parents have cancer. The diagnoses came within days of each other. I can’t begin to imagine how devastated she is.
Many cancers are preventable but in Nova Scotia every day nine men and seven women are told they have cancer. There are less than a million people living in my home province of Nova Scotia, yet 400,000 will get cancer in their lifetime. That’s nearly one in two people. Does that mean one of my two boys? Does that mean one of their two parents too? These numbers have to change.
I know this is my week to focus on physical activity but I already did my 30 minutes of activity at lunch hour so, instead, I’m going to take a moment to get up on my high horse and make a plea.
Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer and 87% of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. We have made huge strides over the last 50 years in lowering smoking rates but one in five Nova Scotians still smoke (and this province has some of the highest cancer and cancer mortality rates in the country). I am begging you to stop.
I know that’s an easy thing to say and it’s a terrible thing to try and do… I know because I did it. I quit smoking nine years ago this month. It was, without a doubt, the smartest thing I ever did (and one of the hardest). I know this may sound like I’m lecturing and it may sound like I’m being a goody-two-shoes but I have seen too much pain come from cancer. My pain, the pain of friends, the pain of the dying and of those left behind. I can’t imagine doing that knowingly to my kids.
I view starting smoking as the stupidest thing I ever did. I increased my risk for all kinds of diseases, including cancer. Within 12 hours of having my last cigarette my body began to heal itself and every year of being smoke free replaced the damaged cells with more new ones. Now, nearly 10 years later, my risk of lung cancer death is similar to that of non-smokers.
I know it sounds like I’m giving a lecture… and I probably am. I also know I probably lost the smokers less than half-way into this post, but I had to say my piece. I am so tired of the toll cancer takes on our lives both on an individual level and on a societal one. However, I do promise the next 30 days will not be about lectures. This is still my journey and that of my family… unfortunately, the cigarette is part of my past but, through these changes I’m trying to make, I hope it won’t have an impact on my future.