In March 2006, then 37 year-old Deborah Scott turned to the Internet to memorialize the loss of both of her parents to cigarette smoking. In closing she wrote, "I never want my children to have to go through what I went through." Sadly, Deborah is now living her worst nightmare, as one year later she received her own diagnosis of lung cancer.
Deborah at age 11 or 12 with her younger brother David
I am sharing my story in hopes that it can help motivate at least one person to really quit, or one person to never start smoking. I always swore I would quit and I really tried. But I started smoking at 11 or 12 years old and not only did both of my parents smoke but my sister and brother too.
My sister is three years older than I am and we would steal cigarettes, mostly from mom. I don't really remember much about that first smoke. It burned, it didn't taste good but, honestly, it felt natural for me to smoke. I think mom and dad both smoked a lot, about two packs a day.
Deborah smoking in July 2006
When mom found out we were smoking she tried to make us sick so we wouldn't smoke. She had us sit and smoke what seemed like an entire carton. "If you are going to smoke then by God, smoke," she said! I don't remember if it made me sick but I know it didn't work. Finally she gave up. She hated us smoking but she couldn't make us stop either.
I went to the doctor in April of this year. I have had carpal tunnel in the past, and it was hurting again. So, just to make sure that there wasn't anything going on in my shoulder as well, I had an x-ray.
A few days later I got a call. They caught a part of my left lung in the picture. I was immediately sent in for a CT scan. Two days after that I was sent to see a pulmonologist. There were suspicious nodules in my left lung, also some smaller ones in the right and my lymph nodes were enlarged. After a failed fine needle biopsy, I had a bronchoscopy.
On May 15, 2007 I was given the news. The diagnosis was non small cell carcinoma, or to be exact, adenocarcinoma.
Deborah with her 11 year-old daughter Ariana, after starting chemotherapy
I was also told my cancer is inoperable, that my only option was chemotherapy. I was dumbfounded. I was devastated. It was like, in my head, anyone looking at me was looking at a dead person. I'm 38. I have a 21 year-old daughter. I have an 11 year-old daughter. I just bought a house. My first house. I have a great guy, and a really great brother and sister. How can this be happening to me now?
I was about a pack-a-day Marlboro 100s smoker. It seems like I had tried to quit hundreds of times. I used the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, Zyban, Smoke Away, nicotine lozenges, etc, etc. I started with Chantix on May 9, before being diagnosed, and endured a month of nausea and vomiting. But most times I would rarely get past a couple of weeks before I would again become a closet smoker or try to survive on just a few drags each day. And it's still hard, even with my condition. At times I struggle but I hate cigarettes, I really hate them.
Deborah's 21 year-old daughter Amanda and her nephew Austin
So next came the pet scan. It says I have stage 4 cancer. It has spread to the 9th vertebrae in my back. They're telling me stage 4 cancer is incurable.
I have had two rounds of chemotherapy. The first was horrible. The next a little less horrible. I am still working although it's really hard. I'm sick all the time. I'm tired. I have pains in my legs that force me to take pain killers just so I can stand long enough to work. I already have trouble going down the stairs to take my dogs out. I feel like I'm tens of years older than I am. And I'm trying to be strong but a lot of times I just want to cry.
Deborah with her younger brother David, June 2007
I've had my supervisor position at work taken from me. I still have my title and pay, but that's not really the point. The point is I'm sick, I'm tired, I'm in pain all the time, and I have cancer and emphysema. It has drained my energy, my health, and my opportunity to do things with my kids.
My relationship with Jeff is completely different. Thankfully he's very good to me, though we'll likely miss many many years together. I don't even know how many yet. I'm afraid to ask.
I had chemo on Tuesday. My legs are still killing me. It hurts to walk across the room. But I'm a little better. Tomorrow I go in for my bone cancer treatment. So I'm off for a few more days. I really need the rest. I'm just so very tired and really tired of not feeling good.
Deborah Scott, September 2007
It's getting near impossible to work, but I have to hold on as long as I can ... even longer. I need my health insurance. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, or pity me. After all, I did it to myself.
All I ask is that after you read this, that you take a good long look and decide if this is a path you want to take. Quitting smoking is easier than anything I'm having to go through right now.
I will write again to let everyone know what's going on, because I've just had my second of two treatments, with an added drug, as the first two didn't work. So my shot is, if this next CT scan shows the treatments are not working, I have no other option but to go to Chapel Hill to try some clinical trials. I hope you'll think seriously about quitting. Smoking isn't worth your life.
09/11/07 - It's kind of late. I'm having trouble sleeping. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I was thinking of taking a leave of absence from work. It is really hard to stand all day. I'm really not getting much rest and I feel completely out of control in everything. I've just lost any control I have ever had since being diagnosed. My job is a mess, my house is unbeleivable. I need to be able to control something. So I thought, my house. Plus there are things I want to do before I go and I don't want to work until I'm to unhealthy to do any of it.
Of course, there's the fear of lost money if I don't work. I don't want to lose my house but there was an accident involving my fiance and his coworkers. One was thrown from the truck. He broke a bunch of bones and has a concussion. But the hospital sent him home as he has no insurance. So I got flashbacks of my mom and now I'm afraid I'll be out of medical insurance and broke and won't be able to get any care. I know I have options but that just terrified me. So now I can't sleep. And my feet are so swollen they hurt. Bouncing back from this round of chemo isn't that easy. I go back to work on Friday, and I'm not sure I'll be able stand for even 5 hours.
Also the pain in my legs doesn't seem to be going away this time. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, and I pray no one else ever has to go through it. Fear, pain, knowing you are going to die, just not knowing when. I know they are going to give me a time line or whatever after my CT scan. I almost don't want to know but then again I do. Don't know if it makes any sense, except that not knowing or the fact that your future is grim, is so frustrating and terrifying at the same time.
So that's my journal input for today. I may try to lay down again. Hopefully I can sleep without waking up from nightmares or pains in my legs, or coughing so hard I think my lungs may come up. Be nice to get some restful sleep.
09/17/07 - Just some thoughts. I can't sleep AGAIN, can't seem to turn my brain off sometimes. So tonight I can't stop thinking about what it's going to be like, you know, dying from lung cancer. What's going to happen? Am I going to just drop dead or will it migrate to someplace else like my liver or my head, and that's what'll kill me? Will I just not be able to breathe?
I want to go to church, but I don't know which one to go to. And I haven't been to church since I was a kid. I was angry at God for awhile when my mom got sick and died. So since I haven't gone am I just going to be a hypocrite if I go now? I believe in God but I just haven't gone to church in so long ...
What's it going to be like to leave my daughters, especially my youngest? Is she going to be ok without me? I don't want to die. I'm not ready, though I don?t suppose I'll ever be ready. Im going to fight this cancer with all I have but tonight I just can't stop thinking about ALL of it.
What I wouldn't give to go back and never start smoking to begin with, or even to have been able to quit some time back, BEFORE I got or grew (or whatever) the cancer. I don't feel doomed yet, though I know I?m very sick and I?m really terrified. It doesn't feel real sometimes, you know, like a bad dream or something.
I know I'm sick. I know I have to fight. I know I could still live a few years with this, maybe longer. I'm young, younger than your average lung cancer patient, I have more strength and health than a lot of people with the same thing but that 5 year lung cancer survivor rate average kind of runs through my head over and over. I'm just counting on beating that average. I'm not ready to go yet, not for awhile. Ok, so that may or may not have made any sense, my late night ramble for the week, but maybe since I've written it down I can now stop thinking about it, right?