This is one of my dad's favorite pictures of himself.  It's one of my favorites as well. In 2002, Kenneth Merrell retired from the Austin Fire Department after 32 years of service.  In 2008, he passed away due to complications from lung cancer. 

For as long as I can remember, my dad was a smoker.  He knew the risks and he tried to stop on several occasions, but as so many people know, that is not an easy task.

Today is the Great American Smoke Out.  Today should be treated as a day of encouragement to help those that are wanting to 'kick the habit'. This is not a day to look with disdain and disgust at those who do chose to smoke.  This is a day to educate and to offer support.

There are enough statistics about smoking and its effects on your health to make your head and lungs spin, but I've chosen the ones that really stick out the most to me.  A few of these were made known to me by Dr. Sid Roberts, Medical Director at the Temple Cancer Center in Lufkin, when he visited the Merrell in the Morning Show.

  • HALF of those people who smoke will end up dying from a smoking related illness, whether it be cancer, heart problems, etc...
  • When you kick the smoking habit, your body will start repairing itself.  Some effects of smoking can start being reversed within a few weeks of quitting.  After 15 years of not smoking, your chances of getting cancer will be at the national average for a non-smoker.
  • Habitual smokers, on average, will end up dying 12-14 years earlier than they would have if they didn't smoke.

12-14 years.

That's a lot of laughs, hugs, and conversations that I missed out on with my dad.  That would have been a lot of great quality time with the grandkids.  Heck, my youngest doesn't remember much of him anymore, she was 3 when he died.

The biggest reason I wish my dad had stopped smoking was the pain, the severe pain he endured while trying to fight lung cancer.  The chemo and especially the radiation brought him down hard.  The radiation tore his esophagus to shreds.  He wouldn't eat or drink.  He couldn't because he said it was like swallowing razor blades.  I used to smoke in my 20s, but I was able to quit. The urge to smoke really never goes away, but, picturing my dad in that state makes for one big deterrent.

If you are a smoker, whether casually or a hard core '2-pack-a-dayer', keep in mind that there is a wonderful outlet for support right here in our own backyard. Everyone knows about the American Cancer Society, but did you know that there is local branch in Lufkin that is staffed by kind, sincere, and knowledgeable folks?

Education and support are two major keys in smoking cessation and the American Cancer Society at 212 Gene Samford Drive in Lufkin is a great place to get those.  Their number is 936-634-2883.