In my role as lung cancer screening coordinator at Rush, I have the pleasure of working on a program that has the ability to save lives by identifying lung cancer that otherwise would go undetected.
In doing so, I hope to spare my patients and their families the sadness and grief one experiences when diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. I know and understand lung cancer on a very personal level.
To understand my relationship with this disease, one has to learn a bit more about me. Here is my story.
I always wanted to be a nurse. When I graduated from high school, my family encouraged me to focus my career on business. I held positions in advertising and marketing. Looking back, I was always restless and never quite satisfied with my work.
‘Love, laughter, tears’
Fast forward many years to helping my mother, a widowed lifelong smoker, who recently downsized to a senior apartment. Tired and blaming the move for her unsteady gait, in the back of my mind, I wondered if she might have a brain tumor because of lung cancer. My worst fears came true when a few weeks later she was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer that already spread to her brain.
I loved smoking. I loved the smell of the box of cigarettes in my purse. I loved lighting cigarettes. I loved holding cigarettes. I loved the assumed friendships you’d make with other smokers as we huddled outside restaurants during Chicago winters and complained about being “second-class citizens.” I did not want to quit for all these reasons and many more.
I quit smoking just more than one year ago: November 1, 2009. It’s an important day for me. I remember my last cigarette very clearly. I was driving back from spending Halloween with friends in Iowa. I lit the cigarette, took a few puffs and then tossed it out the window and thought, “I’m done.” I had spent the night before smoking outside in the cold alone and making peace with the idea of being done.
I wanted to quit because I did not love the smell of smoke on my coat or in my car. I did not love being sick all winter. I did not love the idea of being an adult who smoked. I did not love the fact that something was stronger than me.
Many attempts to quit smoking during the course of my life had been made. I tried in college. I tried after college. I tried using medications. I tried cutting back and being a “social smoker.” When Rush went smoke-free in 2008, I tried the free classes it had for employees. Each attempt would be initially successful but I always got in my own way. Continue reading →