The in-law (I'll call her "D" here) I was talking about last week, the one who is ill?
Has been diagnosed with lung cancer.
The doctors tell her that it's not operable. They say that, with chemo, she can probably live for a year or two.
Everybody is heartbroken. We all love D. She's gentle and funny and kind. When her mother developed Alzheimer's, D took care of her for years. D's daughter is expecting her first child, D's first grandchild, in the spring.
And there's an elephant in the room. There's something nobody's talking about, because to do so would be ... unseemly, somehow.
D. is a smoker.
She and her husband were both smokers, until her husband quit, over two years ago.
I often thought that it must have been difficult for him, to quit smoking while she kept on. But he did it. And she didn't.
And now she has lung cancer.
If she had quit when he did, two years ago, would it have made a difference? Probably not. Two years of not-smoking is not going to magically erase the lifetime of smoking that came before.
And that's something all of us smokers and former smokers understand: The damage has been done. If you've smoked for any length of time, you know that there is a ticking time bomb inside you. All you can do is hope for the best. Hope that you quit in time.
And oh! If you've ever smoked, you know darn well that once you pass away, no matter WHAT you die of, people will say, "Well, she used to smoke, you know." That just comes with the territory.
I always say that the reason I quit when I did was because I didn't want the day I quit smoking to be the day I sat in a doctor's office and listened to him tell me I had lung cancer.
And now D. is going through exactly that. I can't even imagine. I hope I never have to.