Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It's also fourteen months from the date lung cancer killed my father. He was 74.

No ifs, ands or butts about it: smoking can kill. As I've posted previously, Dad, a long-term smoker, contracted emphysema in the winter of 2003-2004. In May 2005, he was diagnosed with devastating, fast-moving small cell lung cancer. That was days after we buried his sister and about two weeks before my birthday. Four months later, Daddy was dead.

In the interim, my father became oxygen-dependent and wheelchair bound (until breathing difficulties confined him to bed, rendered him helpless and stole his dignity). Radiation treatments burned his skin. Chemotheraphy made him nauseous and bald. Dad lost the ability to taste and ultimately, to eat. His arms and fingers became pincushions riddled with trackmarks from regular withdrawals of blood and insertion of tubes.

That last night, we watched TV together until Dad fell asleep. News coverage concentrated on Hurricane Katrina and Gulf Coast devastation. Local newscasters repeatedly noted that our location (on the Rockaway Penninsula), was equally vulnerable. Dad and I did not discuss the obvious: should a major storm blow our way, he would likely perish.

That was sobering, especially for a helpless man who was already dying.

The discussion we did have was a splash of cold water. I wouldn't embrace the reality that Dad was dying until he issued a verbal DNR. Blessedly, I did not have to execute his order. Dad died soon after I left the hospital.

Until his rapid, late-in-life decline, my handsome, hale and hearty father had presented the picture of health. After Dad died, my brother, Bob Jr., recounted an occasion when Dad saved his life. Bob had been working under a car when the jack collapsed. Lightning fast, Dad grabbed the two-or-three-ton vehicle and held it aloft, allowing Bob to escape unscathed.

Dad was our hero, but he was no match for tobacco or cancer. Today I submitted his photo to Lung Cancer Alliance - Faces of Lung Cancer and tapped into some support resources for people affected by lung cancer. I sincerely help you will do all you can to spare yourself, loved ones and others from a fate like Dad's and those of us who mourn him. Here are some suggestions.

Feel free to check out these related phlogs:

Following are some books about lung cancer, songs I've played in radio tributes to my father, and a list of father-daughter songs. As my musical selections reveal, I'm a daddy's girl.