Rebecca D

Rebecca D., MD

My father Constantine Frithiof Malmberg was born in August of 1925.  He died 80 years later on the Autumnal Equinox in 2005 of lung cancer.  He grew up and came of age during the 1930s and 1940s.  It was a time that cigarette companies paid the biggest movie stars to appear in cigarette commercials and smoke onscreen in their movies.  When he was a soldier in WW2 the soldier’s rations included a mini-pack of cigarettes along with a fold of waterproof matches.  Little wonder that he took up smoking, and smoke he did, three packs of filterless Camels a day for many decades.   Powerful commercial forces were wildly successful in convincing his generation to smoke.  In surveys from the 1940s the smoking rate was around 50%. My father struggled to quit smoking for years, achieving that goal finally too late in his old age. 

My father celebrated his 80th birthday swimming at his birthday pool party, was diagnosed with very advanced lung cancer about a week later, and died 5 weeks after his 80th birthday.  He had been having some breathing problems all summer but even with his history of smoking didn’t go see a doctor until late August.  There are many more painful stories of lung cancer, people who’ve died young, people who’ve endured endless painful treatments but I believe that my father’ story still matters.  I doubt he would still be here today at 98, but when he died, he was still a very active part of our family and community who’s passing left a huge whole for his widow, children, grandchildren.  Even a few more years would have brightened and enriched our lives immeasurably.  

My father’s lung cancer story is a story of strong societal encouragement to smoke coupled with not seeking and getting timely intervention.  My father was a very private man who loved children.  I think that he would approve me sharing his story if sharing it influenced better outcomes for all people, but especially for the children of today.  So those children can live in a world where tobacco use is a fading memory, and lung cancer is rare, caught early with effective screenings and treatable.   I want to honor my father by sharing his story in the hopes that it can influence funding of prevention, screening and treatment support to ensure other people don’t lose their life to this cancer. 

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