We have been so inundated with the mantra 'smoking causes cancer' (especially by the American Cancer Society, but that's another rant entirely) that any time the words "Lung Cancer" are introduced, it's all we can think of.
As a result people suffering from the disease or loving someone who is suffering with or has suffered from the disease are constantly bombarded with questions of "Are you a smoker?" "Did they smoke?" etc, etc.
I get it all the time. Today during my "Exercise with the Old Ladies" time at Curves, the manager was asking me about my Mom.
Now this lady was a Kindergarten teacher in my town for the last 30 years or so, and because of this she vaguely knows just about anyone who attended grade school here, or had a child do so. As such, I guess she feels more comfortable probing into areas of life that most acquaintences wouldn't touch for the sake of manners.
So today she was asking me about Mom. "Did your mother smoke?" was already covered during another exercise session, but it came up again today.
"If your Mom knew five years ago that she would go through what she did, do you think she would have given up smoking?"
Now what kind of a question is that??? Number one, I have no idea. Number two, given the statistics (See the post, "Let's Talk Lung Cancer Stats"), even if she had, because she was a former smoker, she still would have been at risk. Number three, given previously mentioned stats, even if she HADN'T SMOKED she still would have been at risk. (Especially with her family history)
I tentatively took the approach of, "Lung Cancer is bigger than smoking," and listed different factors that could have contributed to my Mom, or anyone getting sick, and tried to underline again that even NON-SMOKERS are getting Lung Cancer at an alarmingly increasing rate these days (I mentioned this in the previous conversation as well, and she answered, "Because of second-hand smoke, you mean?).
Now this lady is a breast cancer survivor, and she is deservedly proud of this fact.
And a very mean part of me wanted to say, "How would it make you feel if I started asking questions which strongly insinuated that you were to blame for your cancer?"
"I find it interesting that when a person is diagnosed with Breast Cancer the first thing people say is, "How can I help?" but when a person is diagnosed with Lung Cancer the first thing they say is, "Did he/she smoke?"
I just want to scream until people listen, "STOP BLAMING THE VICTIMS OF THIS TERRIBLE DISEASE!!!!!!"
I will not deny that smoking isn't good for you. I won't deny that smokers are at a higher risk for lung cancer.
But when a person has lung cancer--or worse has died from it, isn't it time to stop with the broken record, "Smoking causes cancer" crap????
Why do we perseverate on the issue of blame with this disease? Why do we forget compassion? Why is the image of a cigarette hanging out of a person's mouth the only thing we can let flash through our minds at the words, "Lung Cancer?"
Things have to change. Attitudes have to change. Yes, it would be great if smoking rates changed as well, but we'd still be dealing wiht lung cancer for years down the line.
Compassion. Bring back the compassion when thinking of this disease. Get rid of the blame.
No one deserves to be blamed for their own illness or worse, death from an illness.
And people who have suffered a great loss shouldn't have to constantly defend the honor of the one they loved and lost.
It is just wrong.