I had lunch with a very good friend this weekend. She has a ton of great qualities, but punctuality isn't one of them. So, as I waited for her, I decided to sit on the outside patio. It was extremely overcast (not that I still didn’t need to slather on the SPF), there were umbrellas over the tables, and it was actually cool outside, so I wanted to take advantage. Since being diagnosed, there are few opportunities when I can sit outside anywhere and not feel like the sun is slowing eating away at me.
There weren’t many people out there, only about 4 tables, including me. Sitting in front of me was a table full of nurses. As I played with my phone, reading the latest check ins and updates from all my friends on Facebook and trying half-way not to overhear other peoples’ conversations, one of the nurses yelled, “Ma’am,” to which I immediately raised my head ( I don’t know why, because I am certainly not old enough to be called ma’am.) “You know this is a no smoking patio.”
I have never smoked a day in my life, yet it took a second to realize she wasn’t talking to me. I turned around and saw an older man and woman sitting a few tables behind me. The woman said “It is? I didn’t know that.” The nurse then went on to point out the signs “all over.”
The couple then got up to leave. As they were walking past the table of nurses, who were also getting up to leave, the man, clearly agitated, said “I am sorry we bothered you so much.” To which the nurse, who had quite a bit of what I call “passion” inside her, went off.
“HEEEELLLL YEAH! I don’t want to smell your smoke. If you want to die of cancer go ahead, but I don’t need to smell your smoke.”
I’ve never been comfortable with other people’s conflict. If I am involved, my self-righteousness takes over and there is no time to feel sad until after I’ve already acted like a jerk, but watching other people go at each other, even verbally, makes me very uncomfortable. On the one hand, I was grateful she told them to stop smoking. They were closer to me and had I had a chance to smell it, I would have gotten up and went inside, ruining my nice time outside. On the other hand, I don’t think the exchange had to be so nasty.
After everyone was gone, and it was just me, STILL waiting on my friend to arrive, I started to think about the couple and how they’re probably so set in their ways, they’ll never quit. It made me think of my nana and my father-in-law.
My nana smoked from the age of 13 until one year before she passed away from emphysema. One day I called her on the phone and she was slurring her words. I called my mom, and she called 911. On her way out to the ambulance, my nana grabbed her cigarette pouch. The EMT told her she couldn’t take those with her. The next day, we were told by her doctor that she had emphysema and had about a year left. She was put on oxygen. That was the ONLY thing that stopped her from smoking that last year. She didn’t want to blow herself up!
My father-in-law passed away at the age of 59 from lung cancer. He, too, smoked all his life. I only saw him twice. At the time, my husband was just my boyfriend. I met his father one day when we took something to his house. The second and last time I saw him, other than in a coffin at his funeral, was when we drove him to a chemo appointment. He died 6 months after being diagnosed and was buried on what would have been his 60th birthday.
Just a few days before my interesting lunch, I was a witness to a very brave and courageous effort made by one of my fellow melanoma warriors, Chelsea Price at Adventures with My Enemy Melanoma. She searched #tanning on twitter and found an amazing amount of young girls discussing how they were either going for their second tan of the day, getting ready for their 12 minute “nap” in the tanning machine, or complaining that their parents better get them some tanning sessions for Christmas.
Chelsea replied back to each and every one of them. She encouraged them to rethink their decision to tan. She shared that she was diagnosed with melanoma at 23. As expected, she received some “not-so-nice” responses back, but I tell you, I admire her guts and her ability to follow through with her mission.
Let’s hope that much like the teenagers I used to teach, when she was put on the spot, she felt the need to be nasty and ignorant. Even so, I bet Chelsea made her think. At least, I pray she did.
So why do these people, or should I say “WE”, because WE ALL do it, in one way or another, why do we do things that we know can only lead to harm and no good? I figure there are two reasons:
2) We never think it’s going to happen to us.
We know when we drink and get into a car to drive, we could kill someone or ourselves, but we never think it will happen to us.
We know when we text and drive, that many people have died due to the distraction, but not us, we can drive and text. We have better “skills” than those other people.
We know smoking leads to death, yet, even if we want to stop, it’s just too hard. We are set in our ways. We are addicted and the fight is much too hard for us to handle on our own.
In 2012, we KNOW any kind of tanning, especially indoor, can kill us. But we put vanity over life. We use it as our therapy, our “time-out”. Sure, it can happen to other people. But it won’t happen to me, not now at least. Just a few more sessions. I won’t do it forever.
When will WE realize that YES it CAN happen to us? When it does?
I hope not. Learn from other people’s mistakes. We won’t live long enough to make them all ourselves.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, practice safe sun.