I purchased an e-cig on a whim and quit, unplanned, in 2 weeks. That was 6 and a half years ago.
My dearest friend of 35 years and former partner, also smoked and wasn’t able to quit until she began having health issues. She was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and died 2 years after her diagnosis. It was a long, slow, painful death I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
After her initial diagnosis I visited her about every 6 weeks – 2 ferry rides to the small Gulf Island where she and her partner lived. I accompanied her to chemo treatments, talked about old times, death, the meaning of life or sat quietly with her on their deck amongst the trees…just being in the moment, cherishing our time together. Some visits she was seemingly healthy and positive, other times she looked frail and frightened – the ups and downs of cancer treatment.
Early December of 2020 the inevitable happened, there was nothing more her medical team could do for her but make her as comfortable as possible. Her time was running out. Dec 10 of that year my mom passed away. Upon receiving the news, my dear friend texted me from her bed to say she was there for me, that I could count on her to be there emotionally (while she herself was dying). Tears flowed.
A few days after mom passed I received a call from my friend’s partner. The time was near, I needed to come. When I arrived at my friend’s bedside I felt both relief and sadness at the same time – relief I had made it there in time and sadness that this was our final visit. She lay in bed on oxygen 24/7, in a daze from heavy pain medication but she knew I was there. The next evening I sat with her before heading to bed. Her eyes were half mast, the sound of the oxygen machine filled the room while she struggled to breathe. I held her hand, stroked her head and sang our favourite song quietly in her ear. I whispered that I loved her and that it was okay to “leave”.
45 minutes later, her partner knocked on the window of the bunky, the sleeping cabin my friend had built, to tell me “She’s gone.”
There’s a shame attached to lung cancer – a stale and cruel idea that people brought on the illness themselves…”Ohhh, lung cancer…did they smoke?” That smokers are a drain on our medical system is an all-too-common phrase that is used to somehow demonize those who smoke…degenerates.
Watching my friend die a slow, excruciating death has ignited a fire beneath me. We will never know if her outcome would have been different had she switched from combustible cigarettes to vaping. But we do know there are 100’s of 1000’s of Canadians who can be helped. Now. This is why I fight, this why I ramble on about the benefits of a safer nicotine delivery system, to anyone willing to listen.
She was my person. She is my inspiration.