Friday, 30 April 2010

Guest post: Smoking and Cancer

fags image from:

This post is by a friend. I probably agree with everything she says here. But I am having a cigarette as I read this through. Why? Because I think it makes me feel better. Does it really?? Some days, yes. Absolutely. But some days? Not really. This post is certainly food for thought. I give you over to Bj Gallagher. Whatever you do - smoke or not, this post is worth reading.

One thing I will say - BJ; there is no risk of you being 'cut off' by any sensible woman, either side of the Pond. We all need a wake up call occasionally, whether or not we choose to listen is entirely up to us. Thanks for the post! And! Where is all this chatter on Facebook regarding smoking?

And how odd…my lighter refuses to work!!


With the following diatribe I am running the risk of being cut off by a circle of ovarian cancer women on both sides of the Pond. I cannot sit idly by and pretend that I am not reading what in fact I am. Lately, there has been a lot of chatter on Facebook regarding smoking amongst the circle of women discussing their ovarian cancer situations. It has become so prevalent that I am appalled to find that so many of the women are still smoking despite their diagnosis of cancer. On the one hand the ladies discuss their CA125 numbers while in the next breath they are discussing their cigarettes, whether to roll them, what brand of tobacco is better, how many a day, etc. Am I losing my mind?

What is going on here? What are you smoking women thinking?

Lest you think I am being self-righteous, let me say I, too, used to smoke – at least one pack a day for well over 30 years. In fact, I had become a closet smoker. My husband absolutely forbade it and, knowing my complaints would fall on deaf ears, I took to smoking in obscure, out of the way places where his presence would not be an issue. Hence, becoming a closet smoker – for what I deemed was my own sanity. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Sanity has absolutely nothing to do with smoking. Smoking for me was a pleasure. After all, what’s a good cup of coffee without a cigarette. Or what is a good meal without a follow-up cigarette? To be honest, a good cup of coffee is just that, as is a good meal! They are good. They need no further follow up to make them memorable.

But then came the day in January 2001 when I was pronounced a victim of cancer. I, too, jumped on the bandwagon of CA 125 numbers, doing advocacy work for the cause, involving myself in clinical trials, speaking to groups, – mind you, all for the cause to stamp out ovarian cancer!! Yep, I was doing it all to further ovarian cancer education among the less informed women of society but I continued to smoke. Yes, the first couple of years were halcyon times – my numbers dropped dramatically with each chemo treatment; my hair fell out (so what?!), the steroids packed on the weight (ah, the cigarettes can control that to some extent), but I was doing my part and still enjoying the ciggies every opportunity I could. The struggle was mind blistering! I deemed myself unable to cope with the drama of my life without the smokes to carry me through.

Rubbish. Oh yes, the drama was taking over; the doctor’s appointments, the scans, the blood work; the constant day to day struggle to get through the day’s events without losing my sanity. Thank God, there were the cigarettes. My touchstone to sanity and
reality. If I could only have another cigarette, my world would be back on an even keel. The nicotine would temper the harsh reality of my life and the smoking would lull me into believing that at least one area of life BC (before cancer) would remain unchanged.

Furthermore, the relaxation of smoking would de-stress me if only for a few minutes. The fact was, I was focusing on when and how to get a cigarette to calm myself down than trying to get well. Getting well meant quitting smoking – not because I would suddenly be transformed to a woman without cancer but it meant one less stressor on my body. I was rattling off facts and figures with my cigarette pack in my handbag awaiting my quiet return for a few minutes of inhalation pleasure. Do you see where this is going?

Smoking had me believing all was going to be well in my upside down world. It was the last remnant of a connection to a previous life that was never to be again. I foolishly believed that nicotine held no power over me. That I had only to say the word and I was through with the vile act. Fact is, smoking controlled my world at that time. The person I saw each morning in the mirror had nothing to do with the person I once was. I wanted that person back – or at least a small vestige of her – and smoking would help me get back to her. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. BJ BC was gone forever. That life was only a distant memory – pleasant though it was. Not until I realized that I was being such a hypocrite – what, spouting all the facts and figures of cancer survival, causes, etc.- did I face the reality of my situation. How could I reconcile all the advocacy and continue to smoke when statistics clearly indicate that nicotine/smoking contribute to cancer.

There are four main contributors to cancer – you pick whichever cancer you want: Obesity, smoking, diet; and lifestyle. The following was taken directly from an article from the National Cancer Institute. The remainder of the article can be seen at the link at the top of this article. Please read it.

1. Quitting smoking substantially reduces the risk of developing and dying from cancer, and this benefit increases the longer a person remains smoke free. However, even after many years of not smoking, the risk of lung cancer in former smokers remains higher than in people who have never smoked (1).
The risk of premature death and the chance of developing cancer due to cigarettes depend on the number of years of smoking, the number of cigarettes smoked per day, the age at which smoking began, and the presence or absence of illness at the time of quitting. For people who have already developed cancer, quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing a second cancer (9, 10).

Now, ladies, I am not stupid nor do I wish to appear to be stupid. The facts clearly state one’s health improves when one quits smoking – even if you already have cancer! So, all the anxiety about CA125 numbers bouncing up and down, the adhesions and scans, the
constant threat of relapse, these issues are moot when we are NOT doing everything we as cancer patients can to turn that tide. If you still smoke, think about the message you send to your family, friends, colleagues and lesser known's: Your message to them is
this: The statistics don’t apply to me. I will get through this ordeal without having to give up a known body stressor that contributes to cancer because I am untouchable. I will focus my energy on the things I really can’t do anything about (example: CA125) and continue to ease my tensions with cigarettes.

Ladies, all the worry about your survival will do no good if you continue to add to the problem with smoking. I encourage you to take a major step on your own behalf and do all you can to stop smoking. You will feel so much better physically and mentally. Your focus will shift to healing your body instead of thwarting the healing process every time you light up.

Good luck to all of you. It won’t be easy but YOU CAN DO IT! You are Survivors!

Bj Gallagher.


  1. I am so relieved that smoking is one vice I have never had. If I smoked I know I would do it too much. That type of personality! I used to drink too much wine but don't seem to be able to have much these days. I need to watch what I eat- I am perilously greedy. LOL XX

  2. Oh dear...I know what you mean - I have an addictive personality too. Thank goodness I can't afford cocaine ;o)

    And the cigs must go, but first the couple of kilos...I still drink too much wine!!

  3. i did drink far too much but have cut down drastically and actually left half a bottle last night!!!!
    I work in intensive care and the majority of the time patients cannot get off the ventilators because of smokers lungs. It's a mare. I used to smoke and did recently during a very traumatic time in my life. The booze fags, stress all made me feel crap but the effort to do these things was nothing compared to the effort I now put in to feel better.

    My mum died of cancer and never smoked or drank. My dad smokes and drinks but is still reasonbly fit and well. go figure.

    Myself? I just can't take the risk. I wear a cycle helmet because I don't think it's fair that my family should suffer if i fell or got knocked off my bike and ended up with a head injury. I wouldn't want to put the burden on the nhs either.
    Same for smoking. I wouldn't want to ever be admitted to icu but if i was ever ventilated I want to be able to recover as quickly as i possibly could.

    I have to admit i don't get people who do smoke after a diagnosis but i do know how hard it is to give up.

    At the end of the day it's up to the individual and thats their right but my conscience is a right nag!!!

  4. Thank you for sharing this post with your readers!! you have sent a strong message through this post!


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