I Was a HEAVY Cigarette Smoker, This is How I Quit Smoking

My Journey With Smoking

Giving up cigarettes is one of the most successful things I have ever done in my life. Prior to June of 1995, I thought I would be hooked on nicotine and cigarettes until the end of my life. Smoking was such a necessary permanent habit just like eating and sleeping. How could I stop after 28 years? I did quit and began the third chapter of my life. In this hub I recollect early life before starting to smoke, life as a smoker, how and why I quit smoking, and present life as an ex-smoker.

Life Before Smoking

Although I was born and grew up in the family of a smoker, I never had an interest or desire to smoke when I was young. My dad was a smoker, but he rarely smoked in the house in front of my sisters and I. My mother never smoked, and although many of my uncles and aunts smoked, I never saw them that much. I guess you can say that I was mostly in a non-smoking environment through the end of high school. There were kids in high school who did smoke, but I never hung out with them. After I went away to college, I never really lived or associated that much with smoking friends. There was absolutely no peer pressure or temptation for me to get started smoking.

Why And How I Started to Smoke

I started smoking in June of 1967 when I was taking Navy basic training. During our nine weeks of training, recruits had very little free time during the day. When we were allowed five or ten minutes of free time, it was popularly referred to as a “smoke break.” We would all be in a “gedunk” area where you could get a coke from vending machines and puff on cigarettes. During one of these breaks when the “smoking lamp” was lit, a fellow recruit offered me a Tareyton filter cigarette, and shortly later I was hooked and buying my own cigarettes from the BX. At first, I really didn’t get that much enjoyment out of smoking. However, after a week or two when I started to crave the nicotine which was building up in my blood, it was an established habit and I had a good feeling each time I lit up. At that time, smoking was very popular in society, and there was no worry about the harmful effects of smoking.

Life As a Smoker

During my 28 years of smoking, I went through an average of one to one and one-half packs of cigarettes per day. Looking back over the experience, I would divide my smoking life into four stages as follows:

1. Light Smoker

During the first seven years I was generally a light smoker averaging no more than a pack of 100 mm Tareyton filter cigarettes per day. I would smoke after all meals, during breaks at work and school, and while I was studying at night. At times when I was drinking with friends, I would smoke more than usual, While I was smoking with the Navy in Taiwan, a Chinese man once remarked that my Tareyton cigarette was number 10 for smoking but number one for health.

2. Moderate Smoker

Throughout the second seven year stage of my smoking life, I was a moderate smoker puffing on about one and one-half packs a day. At this stage I started to need cigarettes while I was working. During most of this time, I was living and teaching English on Taiwan. Vividly do I remember smoking and allowing my students to smoke during class.

3. Heavy Smoker

From about 1981-1993 I was a heavy smoker needing one and one-half to two packs of cigarettes per day. I remember smoking the most during work when I was under pressure to think and complete work assignments. At times I would even chain smoke. Smoking in the workplace environment stopped about 1988 when the federal government decreed that smokers could no longer light up in the presence of non-smokers. It didn’t matter to us smokers because we would first go to designated smoking rooms and then outside for frequent smoke breaks..

4. Light to Moderate Smoker

During the last two years I smoked, I was a light to moderate smoker. At this time I was recently divorced, and my new girl friend was putting a lot of pressure on me to quit smoking. For that reason, I stopped lighting up inside the house. Most of the time I only smoked when I wasn’t in her presence.

Quitting Smoking

How Did I Quit Smoking And Why Did I Quit Smoking

On a few occasions I had tried quitting smoking. I never lasted more than a week before going back to my “old friend.” This all changed on one evening in 1995 when I had my last cigarette and quit smoking for good. At that time I had been complaining about pains in my chest when breathing. After listening to my complaints, I remember my girl friend saying that she didn’t want to lose me from cancer. Upon hearing this, a spell seemed to come over me, and I became very afraid and started to perspire. I began to associate cigarettes with the pains in my chest and cancer, and I actually convinced myself that I would get cancer and die if I smoked another cigarette. I threw away the cigarettes I had left, and I have never had another one. That was on June 30, 1995.

After You Quit Smoking: Consequences of Stopping Smoking

I have never regretted quitting smoking, and only wish I could have stopped sooner. Since giving up cigarettes, I feel fortunate to have reaped the following benefits:

1. Recovered Sense of Smell

It’s amazing how much a person doesn’t appreciate his or her own sense of smell while being a smoker. While I was a smoker, I never realized how badly I smelled, because I couldn’t smell. Within one week of being smoke free, I was starting to smell things I hadn’t smelled in 28 years.

2. Clothes Smell Fresh and Smoke Free

After quitting smoking, more people gravitated to me because there wasn’t the bad smell of smoke on my clothes.

3. No Smell of Smoke on Body or Hair

While I was a smoker, I can now imagine how my breath must have smelled when I talked to people. It’s amazing I was able to have a girl friend considering the smell of smoke in my hair and on my skin.

4. Decrease in Blood Pressure And Better Health

Four years before I quit smoking, I was diagnosed with hypertension. Although I was on medication, my blood pressure was still high while smoking. It’s amazing how much my blood pressure decreased after I stopped smoking. I also could breathe a lot better, and felt generally in much better health.

5. Saved a Lot of Money

Since quitting smoking, I have saved an average of $1,440 per year on cigarettes. From 1995 until 2016 that amounts to $30,240. To me that’s a significant amount of money which I have spent on more worthwhile things.

6. Avoided Smoking Friends And Places of Smoke

While smoking, it seems that I was constantly with smoking friends or in a smoke filled environment. Since I have quit, I have experienced a new better kind of environment away from smoke.

I’m A Cancer Survivor, This is My Story

This is the type of Hodgkin’s that I had when I was diagnosed the second time. Of the four types it is the most common with large tumor nodules. One of them is clearly visible slightly off center toward the bottom left.
In the spring of 1995 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma . Of the four types it was the mixed cellularity type. The cancer first appeared as a lump on the right side of my neck and soon progressed as a series of smaller lumps heading for my chest. The way these lumps developed and traveled and the fear with it, made me refer to the cancer as “the beast.” A CAT scan also revealed that I had a tumor in my lower right sinus cavity, which is not supposed to happen with Hodgkin’s. After having four cycles of chemotherapy and radiation to my right sinuses and mouth it seemed that I beat the disease or beast. At least I thought I did. Below is my story:

One year, two years, five years, or the ten year milestone, it didn’t matter, I just wanted to forget that I had cancer. I wanted to put it behind me. During one of my treatments during my second bout with cancer I made the mistake of asking the nurse too many times what each chemo drug was for and what physical effect it had. She seemed to be irritated, lecturing about all the drugs again as she hung the bags on the iv pole. It simply was a matter of conditioning. You learn a skill, such as painting, or playing the piano and you are rewarded, but when you are administered pain, it is the kind of conditioning that makes you forget. I just don’t know why I was so stupid to keep asking, because I really didn’t care too much about the details of the drugs as long as they worked.

After the last time I had cancer, the oncologist told me that if I would have a recurrence it would start where it left off. That was great to know. No matter what, the beast was going to get into my chest anyway. There was no way of winning. The only way was not to get cancer again. That was my only chance and my only choice.

Six or seven years later I stopped going to the doctor for any kind of checkup. I didn’t think it was necessary. I could check for lumps on my own, feeling for them at the base of my neck or under my armpits. So, thirteen years later, when a lump appeared on my right leg near my groin, I didn’t think anything of it. It was early July, after a four mile run when I first noticed it. I always like to do sprints so you have the tendency of hurting all over when you are done. Considering your legs are taking most of the punishment I assumed I simply pulled a muscle. I was concerned that I might have herniated it but eventually I forgot about it because it didn’t hurt. Every once in a while I would check my leg forgetting about it for weeks on end, but the lump was always there.

The “no pain” aspect should have been the alarm. Even though I felt fine, the first symptom reared its ugly head during the same month that the lump showed up. For about two weeks I lost my appetite and ten pounds with it. For me, this was not good since I am somewhat thin anyway, but I eventually regained my appetite and the weight.

Everything was back to normal until November and December when some truly bizarre symptoms showed up. The first real noticeable one was drooling. Yes, I was drooling. Even though the radiation more than a decade before dried up my saliva I still slobbered all over everything when I slept. I put stains on all my pillows. I put a stain on my winter coat when I fell asleep on the couch. I tried desperately to counter it by sleeping more on my back which I am uncomfortable with and I hate to do. At first, I was inclined to think this was a good thing. Maybe the saliva gland on the right side of my mouth was now back to normal, but this unfortunately wasn’t what was happening. The last time I had the disease, before the lumps showed up on the right side of my neck, I would sweat from my right armpit for no reason. I wouldn’t even have to exert myself. Standing, sitting, it didn’t matter. It was so random. It was like turning on a faucet and the odd thing was, it was exactly like a faucet. The sweat didn’t smell. It was only water! However, as sudden as the drooling started, it just as quickly stopped a couple of months later.

The next weird symptom, which occurred at the same time as the drooling, is my becoming a human candle. It first started in the morning when I was still in bed. I could actually feel heat coming off the top of my head. Soon it progressed into my waking life. I was on fire any place where it was cold, the heat just bobbing off the top of my head, whether I went out to get the mail, walked to my car at the supermarket, or if I stuck my head in the freezer. This symptom lasted longer and got worse as spring rolled around but it never morphed into night sweats.

These two symptoms however paled in comparison to what was to come next. By mid January of 2009 I ended up in the hospital. It started one Sunday when I ate too much. By the time I went to sleep I did not sleep. I couldn’t because the bed wouldn’t stop moving. My heart was racing and it would not stop. It pounded so strong and so fast that I couldn’t keep still. In the morning my sister took me to the hospital. In the emergency room I laid in bed with a heart rate of 120 beats per minute. Any attempt to bring it down did not work. I was then admitted for the night where again, I did not sleep. Yes, stay the night where we will take care of you and find out what is wrong. Don’t worry. Get a good nights sleep.

Well, that is what should have happened, but instead, I was harassed every hour or two by a revolving door of nurses. Let me check your EKG. Let me draw some blood. Let me take your blood pressure. Then is started all over again. I started to doze off initially but I eventually gave up. This was compounded with an iv in my arm that prevented me from moving much in bed, and then considering that the iv was a blood thinner, I had to get up constantly to urinate. Obviously that night was not very good. My heart rate should have been 220.

By morning I was taken for a stress test. I was convinced that they were going to find something wrong. They had to since I had a family history of heart disease, but to my surprise they found nothing. I was fine. The explanation for my racing heart rate was a combination of acid reflux and stress. A few hours later I was home and my heart rate was somewhat back to normal.

The second serious symptom started innocent enough with my simply going to the bathroom more times at night than usual. At first I thought it was only a bladder infection. Some of the times I had some low level pain but it always seemed to go away when I drank cranberry juice or when I drank a lot of water. Then, one day, while working out in my basement on the treadmill, I thought I pulled a muscle. It didn’t really hurt. I only felt some discomfort at the crease between my right leg and my groin area. I tried to continue exercising but it only got worse. One day, after using a rowing machine, I was horrified when I urinated pure blood. Now, did I go to see a doctor. No. Despite how shocking it was I believed that I only injured myself and that I would heal on my own if I was careful, and this is what seemed to be happening. The blood diminished over a period of two days and then it disappeared. I guess I didn’t want to see any evil.

However, once I started any physical activity the blood would return. I still wanted to cover my eyes, not wanting to see the inevitable. The main reason is that I always seemed to rebound quicker. Eventually I didn’t notice any blood for a couple of weeks. This really shows how stupid I was. One day I felt the area between my groin and my leg and noticed a number of small lumps. It reminded me of the small string of lumps on my neck more than a decade earlier, but this time I felt quite a few more. What did I do? I did nothing. When I noticed a slight swelling on the right side of my groin, what did I do? I did nothing. It wasn’t until the blood returned and a parade of family members calling one after the other that I finally relented.

The whole blood incident began in late March. Four weeks later I saw the doctor. The first thought was that maybe I had a kidney stone. I was reluctant, but I showed him the lump on my leg. He was concerned. This was the first time that it hurt since he pressed on it pretty hard. After I told him how I noticed it after running, he even thought that it could be a herniated muscle.

Farm Pollution Doubles The Risk Of Several Cancers

Pollution in Minnesota’s drinking water has gotten worse in recent years, but no one wants to call out the industry responsible. It’s been the primary source of water pollution for decades, making water in some areas of the country dangerous to drink and costing local taxpayers millions of dollars to clean it up.

And what Minnesota residents may not know is that this pollution could double their chances of getting bladder, thyroid, and ovarian cancer.

The culprits are big agricultural operations that are heavily reliant on synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, causing toxic contamination to flow from crop fields into local rivers, lakes and even groundwater.

Big growers apply a lot of fertilizer to their fields, which runs off into groundwater in the form of nitrates. A 2012 EWG study based on United States Geological Survey data found that water in Minnesota streams had eight times more nitrates than streams that are not vulnerable to agricultural pollution. And shallow groundwater that’s a common source of drinking water in Minnesota had four times as much nitrate as the national background level.

Minnesotans should worry about that, because high levels of nitrate in drinking water roughly double a person’s chances of getting several cancers.

A 2010 study led by Dr. Mary Ward of the National Cancer Institute found that public water supplies high in nitrates were linked to a more than doubling of thyroid cancer risk. And in a 2001 study led by Peter Weyer at the University of Iowa, nitrate contamination in water was associated with almost tripling the risk of bladder cancer and almost doubling the risk of ovarian cancer.

Both of these studies involved public water supplies with nitrate levels below what the EPA deems safe to drink.

That’s because the EPA sets the nitrate thresholds so as to prevent the life-threatening effects of drinking highly contaminated water, such as Blue Baby Syndrome, a condition that cuts off the flow of oxygen to a baby’s brain. But the threshold doesn’t protect against cancer and other diseases caused by long-term exposure.

Also, shockingly, big agricultural operations are largely exempt from the Clean Water Act, the landmark 1972 federal law that protects drinking water from nitrates and contaminants from other sources.

To add insult to injury, farm subsidies create incentives for growers to plant and fertilize crops on erodible soil that pours even more nitrates into the water.

Here’s a thought: Instead of encouraging growers to pollute more, we should require growers who collect federal farm subsidies to curtail cancer-causing contaminants in our water.