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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My cousin Rocky

My cousin Rocky is facing terminal cancer, and with his usual wry humor has started a blog titled Terminal Velocity. What he calls his ramblings could easily be collected into a book. They're very good. The situation with him breaks my heart. My handsome younger cousin, after having disfiguring surgery on his face to try to save his life, had the cancer recur before they finished reconstructing his jaw. They'll do no more reconstruction, so he'll spend this last year unable to swallow let alone eat. He's relearning how to talk. He has no teeth, a partial jaw, no salivary glands, no soft palate. When he vomits - which is often - it comes out his nose as well. Can't be helped. Has a tracheotomy.

I was glad he at least still can ride his motorcycle, though his leg is weak - evidently that's where they took the bone to remake his jaw. He has to be more careful, but can still do it. He was a classic extrovert. Lived his life to the hilt with no regrets and beholden to no one.

What brought him down? Smoking.

After my Dad died of the side effects of smoking, I wanted to hire a plane and bomb all tobacco farms out of existence. Now, I look at young people smoking and want to slap them. Dad started before the tobacco companies admitted their product was poisonous. Now we all know. So why do people start smoking? It makes you stink, it makes you wrinkle young, it damages your health and might even kill you. Oooh, hold me back.

A lot are going with those electronic cigarettes in the mistaken notion that they're safer. Yeah, just like tanning beds are 'safer' than the sun. Tanning beds still give you melanoma, and electronic cigarettes are still dispensing poisons, toxins, and carcinogens deep into your body. The only safe suntan is a spray-on tan, and the only safe cigarette is a candy one.

To those who say, well, you've got to die of something, I say, But why pick that? It takes ages, it's expensive, and chemo, radiation, and surgery are very bad experiences. Painful, sickening, horrendous experiences that take away parts of your life you loved.

Rocky, age 18.

                                                Rocky, age 51, after smoking for decades.

Is this really the death you would choose? Because you can choose not to.

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