I did not expect my father to die from lung cancer by age 60. Growing up both my parents were heavy smokers. Every morning and night I would hear them hacking and coughing gasping for air. Still, their persistent smoking habit continued and neither could admit that they were suffocating themselves.
My parents lived out their 30's and 40's smoking continuously ignoring all the subtle warning signs. Slowly I watched both parents lose the ability to breathe. By the time both of them were in their 50's they no longer could go on long walks, ride a bike, swim, do yard work or other household chores. Personal hygiene was an arduous task. Now they needed inhalers, blood pressure medicine, required frequent treatment for upper respiratory infections. It was a life lost and squandered.
My father's lung cancer was inoperable. His lung cancer was complicated by asbestos. On July 27, 1996, he died in a VA hospital in Martinsburg struggling to breathe, emaciated, weak not even recognizable. I doubt that his death was peaceful.
After he died my mother ended her denial quit smoking and had herself examined. Indeed she too had lung cancer. So began her 14 year journey of struggling with lung cancer. The doctors at the James Hospital in Columbus were brilliant. They performed two surgeries, one for a lobectomy. It was just sad. Oxygen, inhalers, various medications, and a total loss of vitality ruled my mother's final years. My mother died at 74 and I could do very little to ease her discomfort. Her death was not an easy passing either. So many days, months and years of suffering from COPD and lung cancer and she lost so many days of being engaged with her grandchildren.
We need to do more to reach out to prevent smoking and educate people on the dangers of lung disease. I always tell young people to quit smoking or better never start and take good care of your lungs.