A Personal Journey:
Staying Nicotine Free
While Fighting Cancer…
During much of 2016, and especially through the summer, I had been coping with conventional cancer treatment con-sisting of an intensive course of chemo-therapy and radiation. At the same time, in June of 2016 I celebrated 3 years being nicotine-free. This piece concerns my experience staying nicotine free during this period and coping with the adjustments and challenges that accompany the regimen of the colorectal cancer treatment I had to undergo.
I can’t say whether I would have been able to stay nicotine-free if I had re-ceived the cancer diagnosis prior to be-ing blessed with freedom from nicotine on my quit date, June 16, 2013. Only my HP knows the answer to that ques-tion, but I’m pretty sure that the chal-lenge of staying nicotine-free while keeping my quit would have probably been a high priority concern for me in any event.
The process of coping with the cancer treatment regimen is challenging for all cancer patients. First, the chemotherapy portion of the treatment consists of hav-ing a port installed under the skin in one’s chest through which the chemo-therapy solutions are administered. Then, (in my case) 2 different chemical solutions were administered. One of the early side effects was that my hair (in all places) began to fall out during the 3rd week of the treatment. To be hon-est, this was alarming to me, having always had a full head of hair, but I was assured and correctly that the hair would begin growing back within weeks of the conclusion of treatment. A second side effect was nausea, which was also addressed well with medication. I also had to urinate more frequently during and after the chemo treatments. The other major and longer lasting side ef-fect concerns the effects of radiation during and after treatment. Radiation kills both cancer and healthy cells indis-criminately. It also affects one’s bowel movements unpredictably. This has been probably the most difficult thing to cope with, but it’s worth the price if it kills all the cancer cells. I’m fortunate that such was the case for me. As of mid-October 2016, MRI and CAT scan test results show that there is no evi-dence of disease anywhere in the re-gion.
Receiving the news of a cancer diagno-sis made me very fearful for my life. The word “cancer” for me carries the fright-ening possibility of severe illness and maybe even death. Since I’ve been coming to the VONR online meetings and to Nicotine Anonymous telephone meetings, there have been several members who I came to know and care about who also suffered from cancer. A few of these fellow nicotine addicts died from this disease (usually of the lungs or the mouth) after illnesses of varying lengths. As I got to know some of them very well as wonderful human beings, their passing was akin to that of losing a family member. I am still grieving some of these individuals. I will never forget these fellow nicotine addicts and their unique and generous spirits.
To conclude, I was tempted occasionally to resume my previous nicotine use during the process of cancer treatment, but thanks to my HP, my staying in touch with the NicA program via meet-ings, prayer and the literature, I have been blessed with both smobriety and my current status of “cancer survivor.” Moreover, offering daily gratitude to HP for my life and some beautiful NicA friendships is an indispensable ongoing aspect of my life.
David M VONR member from Washington, DC