What's it like knowing that you've smoked yourself to death? Honest accounts are far too rare.
Although smoking is America's #1 killer - claiming more than 400,000 annually - nearly all die quiet and very private deaths. Not so for 39 year-old Deborah Christine Scott (Deb) of Spring Lake, North Carolina. She refused to go gentle into that night.
A 26-year pack-a-day Marlboro smoker, Deb passed away Thursday, 24 months after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. But not before chronicling her cancer's gradual ravage of her abilities, health and life. Deb's 24 page Internet diary, hosted at WhyQuit, has been accessed 89,521 times, nearly all by smokers and quitters.
Although smoking claims roughly half of adult smokers, one-quarter during middle-age, unlike millions of coast to coast convenience store cigarette advertisements that daily scream pleasure and flavor, the terminally-ill smoker's voice is rarely heard. Nearly all are silenced by guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear and concerns over assaults by the "I told you so" and "just desserts" crowds.
The resulting unbalanced, incomplete and warped tobacco use picture plays directly into the tobacco industry's hands. The massive yet missing reality check, reflected by a weapon of mass destruction that annually claims five million world-wide, makes youth experimentation easier and smoking cessation substantially less motivated.
Undaunted by what others might think, Deborah Christine Scott cast her lot with the few who have shown the courage to engage in what were previously "unspeakable conversations." Entitled "I'm Deborah and Smoking Has Smoked This Body," her thirty-one journal entries reflect one of the most detailed accounts yet of the consequences of failure to arrest chemical dependency upon smoking nicotine.
"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, or pity me," wrote Deb. "After all, I did it to myself."
Chemotherapy, fatigue, pain killers, weight lifting limitations, job loss, tears, CT scans, watching the cancer spread to bones and tissues, loss of insurance, mounting bills, looking far older than I am, constant worry about my youngest, sleepless nights, new pain meds, keeping my upper lip stiff, MRIs, more blood work, good news followed by bad, declining energy, planning what may be our final vacation, $3,000 medications, more chemotherapy, more hair loss, mounting doctor bills, trying to stay strong, stress, humiliation, declining lung capacity, shortness of breath, excruciating shoulder and back pain, depression, endless treatment, hospitalization for intense headaches, hospital bills, difficulty breathing, fluid buildup around my heart, surgery to relieve it, more heart fluid buildup, more surgery, massive hospital bills, blood thinners, oxygen 24/7, "it could have been totally avoided had I not smoked or continued to smoke," wrote Deb. "I may have been a completely different person with a happy, easy, or even joyful life, had I not done what I did."
"Take a good long look and decide if this is a path you want to take," she urged. "Quitting smoking is easier than anything I'm having to go through right now."
"All I can hope for now is to be able to keep being treated for this disease, and be able to get the medication I need, spend time with my children, and be able to keep my home," wrote Deb. "I'd just like to be able to see my daughter graduate from high school, just live long enough for that."
She didn't make it. Her older sister Laurie Wade will now raise her 13 year-old daughter Ariana. Deborah died on June 4, two weeks before her 40th birthday. Increasing lung blood clots left her unable to breathe.
"My childhood family of 5 is down to 2, my brother and I," lamented Laurie. "All the rest were killed by cigarettes."