On 2 May 2016, and after years of smoking, I finally quit. It’s hard to explain why – or why I succeeded (I had quit unsuccessfully in the past) – but three things were going on in my life at the time.
- A friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had quit smoking years before me, but cancer doesn’t listen to such rationalisations. Her cancer was particularly aggressive and didn’t respond to chemo. She had a mastectomy some months later. Through it all, I tried to offer up as much support as I could, but I felt a bit like a fraud, not unlike Mike Ross’ character in Suits. I would speak to her sitting on the balcony – my favourite spot in my house. More often that not, I had a Marlboro hanging from my fingers. I never knew if she could hear me smoking, but after a while, I felt like I was choking on my own hypocrisy.
- I had several facial cysts that refused to go away. After two of them got particularly out of hand, leaving my cheek with a permanently rupturing mound that was quite gross, I had surgery to have them removed. For reasons I cannot fully explain (the doctor took responsibility for it on her own accord, so I imagine the reasons lay there), the surgical wound collapsed on itself. The pus-filled mound ended up replaced with a rather obvious dent that did my self-image no favours. The surgeon offered to redo the surgery, paying better attention to clearing out the wound and ensuring that the skin around it remained taut enough. It was suggested that I try and keep the wound away from anything that could affect it. Cigarette smoke was listed as one source of toxins. I thought hard about that one, especially since the surgeon was sceptical. She tells that to all her patients. Almost none quit.
- My sister’s teenage children had voiced their concern about my smoking several times, mainly to their mother. Their father had lymphoma.
I guess there was a fourth reason – I desperately wanted to have a child. But nothing had worked till then, and I had not yet convinced my husband to go through with IVF. I knew I had to quit eventually, but I guess I still had a little time.
The day of the surgery, I lit up while waiting for the cab. After the surgery, I never lit up. I had been given some nicotine lozenges that I didn’t use. Quitting was hell.
I should say here that my lungs, unimpressed by the idea of clean air, had some kind of spasm that took me to the emergency room. My ECG was normal, but the doctor asked if I had changed any part of my usual routine. He shook his head at my 20-stick-a-day-to-nothing story, and told me to just use the nicotine lozenges. I started to, and used them for about two months.
By the time we did our first IVF cycle, I had been off both the smokes and the lozenges for months. It didn’t work anyway. When I did my second, I ended up with an ectopic.
Last week, I started smoking again. With no booze (I gave that up in 2014), no soda (I gave that up before we started IVF), no coffee (I gave that up during IVF but have since started up again), and no exercise (because of the IVF, then the pregnancy, then the methotrexate, then the surgical healing), I had no crutch. I needed SOMETHING (it is a stupid thing to need a crutch. But pay close attention to your own before you judge me on this one).
The first pack I bought had an advisory that said smoking could cause miscarriages. I almost laughed. Not smoking hadn’t helped me keep my baby either.
I will try to quit again. Just not today.