IFW # 03 Non-fiction article of 750 to 1,000 words.
| In 1998, after a few months of not being in a relationship, I found myself in one that carried two conditions. “I’m making only two requests from you,” Craig had told me at the onset. “Don’t cut your hair short and stop smoking.” Since serving in the Army was out of the question, the first request was simple. The second, however, would be a bit trickier.
Like so many people before me, I had started smoking because of my peers. At the age of sixteen and coming from a family of smokers, I thought nothing of lighting up. As I look back, smoking was like a right of passage from being a little girl to being cool. My group of friends had one rule: if you didn't smoke, you weren't accepted. For my own reasons, I felt I had to hide this habit from my family the first year. When Mom did find out, she reacted as the Addams family might: Mom supplied my addiction. Having an unlimited supply, my one pack a month quickly turned in to a pack a week. That’s when Mom handed me a pack of her brand of Marlboro Lights and I shifted in the full gear at a pack a day. When I turned eighteen, I was told to start buying my own cigarettes. By then I had reached nearly two packs a day.
Being away from this family and with the support of Craig and his, I felt ready to make the commitment to quit. I had already tried cold turkey and that lasted two agonizing hours. Later I caved to my roommate Cheryl, who waved a cigarette in my face. She and her friends didn’t make it easy with their constant taunts and own addictions. Cheryl’s favorite method was to quote George Burns. “Quitting smoking is easy; I've done it a thousand times.”
In frustration, I turned to Craig and his parents, who were former smokers. Craig’s mother was a nurse and helped me research the different products available. We looked at the different side effects in choosing the right product for me. Nicoderm CQ carried the risks of increased heart rate and intense dreaming. Zyban had a much greater side effect. This prescription pill is labeled with possible epileptic type seizures. Barring this and similar side effects, I passed on products that my insurance would have covered. Instead, I chose the Nicoderm CQ patch plan.
After ten years, the shock effect hit on February 20, 1998. Nothing could've prepared me for what I saw that Friday night on Inside Edition. The tabloid news program reported on a twenty-five year old woman diagnosed with lung cancer. Seeing the videos of this beautiful young woman, I froze in my chair. A cigarette hung from my mouth; the lighter burning only inches away. Though her name escapes my memory, her story haunted my dreams that night. Like me, she had started smoking at sixteen. Unlike me, by the time she was twenty-four she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. We were close in age and I remember thinking. “Why her and not me?”
I told Craig about this story and that it scared me more than Freddie Krueger ever had. The next day, he arrived at my apartment with my first box of Nicoderm CQ. I was on my third day of the patch and Craig was with me when we watched another broadcast of Inside Edition. The program recapped on the woman’s story, adding that shortly after her twenty-fifth birthday this woman passed away. Craig put his arm around me with a gentle hug.
“Aren't you glad you quit?” he asked.
I confessed to him that it wasn't easy to start, the patch rash itched constantly and Cheryl taunted me with her smoking. I found comfort from rubbing the patch in times of stress. Eventually, I told Cheryl, “Either smoke outside or move out.” She was gone in two weeks.
One of my friends asked me to describe the patch; he was a non-smoker and like Craig and me, his girlfriend smoked and it worried him. I used the box as a visual aide to explain. It’s a three patch nicotine trans-dermal program lasting for ten weeks, each patch giving a steady stream of nicotine replacement chemical into the blood for twelve or twenty-four hours. This depended on how much a person smoked and if they chose to wear the patch over night.
Step one is the largest patch with twenty milligrams per patch. Although it’s recommended for six weeks, because of dealing with Cheryl and her friends, I used this level for eight. Moving to step two, at fourteen milligrams for two weeks, I wasn't sure I was ready for the drop. By then, Cheryl was gone and so was the taunting. That made things easier. I also found that I could breathe better and my cat was more affectionate with me. I hadn't even considered what the smoking was doing to her.
Before I knew it, I was on step three at only seven milligrams. The final patch was like wearing a band-aid for two weeks. By this time, the rash was gone, my heart rate was back to normal and the dreams subsided.
It was the bond with Craig that kept me going and after ten years of smoking, I became smoke free. People congratulated me but I couldn't have done it alone. I wished I could thank Inside Edition and the woman’s family. I believe that if one person’s loss can save another, then death is not in vain.