No Regrets?

Let’s face it, unless we have lived our lives to perfection, there are some things we would do differently if we had a do over! Since we don’t, I like the idea of paying forward by sharing one of my life lessons. The idea is to help others minimize some of life’s pitfalls that may be avoided by learning from the experiences of others who have come before us. I hope I can contribute to providing an opportunity for you to have less bumps on your road ahead.

I would like to start by saying that dwelling in what you should, could or would have done is counter-productive. There will always be a fork in the road where a decision is needed. So when we feel we took the wrong path, the best thing to do is make the best of it and move forward. I would like to share one of my “forks in the road”.

Now, let me begin by telling you about the biggest life lesson I have learned. It is about smoking cigarettes! I did have to learn that the hard way. I started smoking at a very young age and smoked for a very long time. At the time, the information about smoking was not as available and public as it is today. Add to that the fact that most of us think certain things just won’t happen to us. I started smoking to mimic someone I really looked up to, my mother.

I had to learn that we are not immune to the effects of smoking cigarettes. If you’re lucky, you can go a long time without feeling the effects, but they will catch up with you. It caught up with me in my late forties when I had a persistent cough and went to the doctor (ears, nose and throat – ENT) only to find that I had a polyp on my vocal cord. I was lucky because it was benign but it scared me into quitting…which I did immediately! But, not soon enough…

…One year later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being the researcher that I am, I scared myself into thinking it was stage four! I was very lucky and blessed to receive the news that, though it was an aggressive cancer, it was only stage one. Phew, I bit the bullet on that one too! I had a mastectomy on my left breast and 12 lymph nodes removed. I was lucky there too…no sign of cancer was found in my lymph nodes! This made the chance of metastasis very slim. After four surgeries and many, many scans over the next 10 years, I was deemed cancer free! Oh, the joy of hearing that news!

Fast forward 10 years, at the age of 60, I was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. This is an eye disease that can be genetic, but the biggest culprit contributing to this is smoking! This disease is the leading cause of blindness, and incidentally it is nearly imminent that will be the outcome. Currently, they do not have a cure. There are two types of Macular, one is dry the other wet. When caught early, it is usually dry but in 14% of the cases it turns wet. Lucky me, I made the 14%! All the doctors I saw told me how I was way too young to have acquired this disease, which incidentally did not make me feel any better. I am now 64 and still have my vision thanks to shots they can give you (yes, shots and they are given right into the eyes). Some can go longer between shots, but in my case, it is necessary that I get them every 4-5 weeks, along with all the tests that are required to stay on top of the progress of this disease.

In 2003, I lost my mother to lung cancer. She too was a lifelong smoker. In her case, it was not caught early and it metastasized to her brain. She had no idea she had lung cancer, but having dizzy spells and involuntarily falling, she had a brain scan and they found a large tumor. When they removed it, they knew right away what type of cancer it was and basically told her she had about 3 months to live. She made it to five months but the progression was very difficult to bear. She had lost her teeth about a year prior to her diagnosis. Smoking also contributed to her loss of teeth. She was a beautiful woman and had a very difficult time adjusting. After that it seemed to just keep spiraling downward.

If I could take anything back, or like I said earlier have just one do-over, I would never have touched a cigarette. And most definitely will never touch one again!

The lesson here is more than a plea not to smoke cigarettes. It goes deeper than that. The message is to find your strength from inside and to resist the temptation or pressure to do something that does not feel right to you.

You can learn from others, but more importantly find your own inner strength. Don’t try to imitate what others do or let yourself get pushed into doing something you don’t understand, agree with or want to do. Believe yourself.

By Tina G

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