The night breeze was cool, he was tucked under the soft and warm quilt of his bed.

Lying next to him was Lucy. Well, not exactly lying next to, it was more like using his chest as a pillow. It was her comfort zone, she loved to snuggle up to him and when they had run out of stories for the night, she leans up, kisses him on the lips, settles back on his chest and says, “Good night love”.

There was no better way to end the day, with the love of your life in your arms, the cool gentle breeze of the night and the sound of the trees swaying rhythmically outside.

It was 11:00pm, Stan had just come off a rough work week, and all he wanted to do was to have a mini vacation with his girlfriend, so they chose a quiet remote spot to spend the weekend. He was an early sleeper or at least, he had become one because of the next days work lying ahead of him and he had to sleep early to enable him not wake up cranky.

For some reason, he couldn’t just sleep. His eyes were heavy, his muscles were weak, all the signs that your body gives when it just wants to lapse into sleep were present, but the sleep was not forth coming. He had to travel back to town to get to work the next morning.

It was the last night of their mini vacation. He knew what he had to do. He pulled Lucy close, pecked her on the forehead, gently rolled her over and slipped off right from underneath her head.

“Where are you going?” she asked with a sleepy voice. “I’d be right back”, he replied. Her voice was a little more awake now, “You are going to smoke, aren’t you? please don’t do it, this weekend was supposed to….”, before she could finish the sentence, he cut her off and said, “Honey, I’d be right back”. He shuts the door of the bedroom and steps out into the cold balcony.

He sits down and admires the beautifully lit sky, with the moon showing off and tiny stars scattered up above. There was a reason they picked this place, the serenity, the sheer beauty of its tranquility, it was literally home for him.

He pulls out a stick of cigarette, lights it, he could hear the crackles of the burning tobacco leaves, exploding gently like a million tiny fire works. He takes a deep drag, he doesn’t know how, but somehow he feels it more in his brain than in his chest, that calming sedative sensation, he lets the cloud of smoke linger within him for a bit, then he gently blows it out with what felt more like heaving a sigh of relief as the white smoke just filed out from both his mouth and his nostrils.

He could remember his first puff of cigarette about 14 years ago. He wasn’t quite sure why he started in the first place. It wasn’t about peer pressure. It just felt cool back then. He could remember one of the cigarettes adverts back then. There was this handsome gentleman who pulls up in a sports car, dressed in an expensive looking pair of suit, gets into his classy and tastefully furnished apartment and his wife who would make most super models cry out of jealousy, steps up to him, hands him a glass of wine, as he was loosening his tie, then offers him a stick of cigarette. He puts it in his mouth, she lights it up for him, he blows out a cloud of smoke and relaxes into this soft leather couch and his wife sits next to him, keeps her head on his shoulders as he turns on the TV. All the while, “Ocean Drive” by Lighthouse family playing in the background.

That was just class, that was the life he wanted. He looked happy, she looked happy, must have been the cigarette. He wanted to be just like him, the classy gentleman on TV.

Fourteen years later, he had become an addict in denial. “I know my body, I know how much I smoke and I don’t take enough to cause me any harm”. He based his argument on the fact that he had searched the entire internet looking for a justification to smoke and had picked a few lines which actually said the quantity he smoked, which was about half a pack a day was actually considered low grade smoking. A part of him knew he was lying to himself, but a bigger part of him didn’t really care about himself.

He opened the door to the room and there she was. Lucy was now sitting up in bed, tears in her eyes and with a quivering voice, she says, “I don’t think I can do this anymore, I’ve endured, I’ve been patient, I’ve prayed. You don’t seem to want to help yourself and I cannot help you if all you do is to resist”. “Lulu”, as he fondly called her, “I don’t do this to hurt you, but don’t say you have been patient. Patience has no limit. Putting pressure on me to quit may not work, I’ll only quit for a night, just to make you happy, then I relapse, which is even worse. You just have to act like I’m never going to quit, that’s Patience”. “You don’t love me, this is not love”, she said, still sobbing, she walked out of the room. He could see she was hurt, he felt guilty, but there was very little he could do. This wasn’t one of those times trying to be cute with words works, he reeked  of cigarette, so long as he smelt that way, nothing he says would do any good.

He’d have to go to bed without kissing her goodnight. He had never been much of a kisser, people thought he hated it. He didn’t actually hate kissing, he just had a constant weird feeling in his tongue, he could feel the taste of tobacco in his own mouth long after smoking, it made him self conscious and so he avoided kissing. He decided to let her be, hoping that she’d feel better by morning.

The next morning, they got up, she hurriedly made breakfast, they ate in silence and they both went back to work. He could care less about how poorly the food tasted. He could barely taste food. His mom always told him his wife would be lucky in that regard, she could cook him any crap and he won’t know.

That was the last time he saw her. It was over between them, every attempt to win her back proved abortive.

Lucy was not the only one who had a problem with this habit of his. His mother had complained and complained and gotten tired. His sister, who is a no nonsense lady had called, but he didn’t want to face her long sermon, so he claimed he was busy and asked her to send a text message via the messenger instead. Her message was simple, she said, “Do you love this more than you love all of us? What exactly are you going to get out of doing this? Seriously, answer me, what?

He missed Lucy so much, he had called and called. She wasn’t ready to spend her life with a smoker. Not necessarily because the smoke bothered her per say, but because, anyone who does not love himself, does not care for himself and cannot desist from something that would hurt him, cannot do the same for another, not just her, the unborn kids too. They deserved a better father, as a matter of fact, they deserved an “alive” father.

Heart break could not have been better explained. He literally felt his heart breaking. He felt the pain, he could swear he felt it physically. He felt hollow and empty.

Stan on that morning resolved that he was going to be a better person starting from doing it for himself, then to doing it for his loved ones.

Quitting after 14 years was no joke. He went out and bought Nicorette, a smoking urge suppressant, he downloaded the “quit smoking” app on his android tablet, he read success stories and sought motivation.

Days rolled into weeks and then, into months, then one day, his phone rang, it was Lucy. The first time she called him since the morning they saw last. He could hear from her voice that she missed him too.

“Hello Stan? How has life been treating you?” They exchanged some pleasantries and she promised to visit him sometime. He had been off cigarette for over 2months now. After the call, he could undoubtedly say that it was his first genuine smile in 2 months. He was happy, there was a new ray of hope, for the first time in a long while, he knew he’d sleep peacefully.

As he lay on his bed, his face went from a smile to a little puzzled, then to a frown. He was thinking to himself, “Suddenly my broken life may just have been fixed, how come I still feel this pain in my chest? Was that not supposed to be the heartbreak?” It just sounded stupid to him how he thought the pain he had been feeling was a result of heartbreak, for the first time. “Ok, this is not heartbreak, this is actually another kind of problem”, he thought.

He felt the urge to cough, he brought out his handkerchief, coughed and wiped his mouth, on the white handkerchief was blood, frank red blood, staining and soaking the piece of clothe.

Stan was diagnosed to have lung cancer. He could not bear to tell anyone, not even his family, he didn’t know what to do. Several months later, he was found coughing out blood while at work and was rushed to the nearby Teaching Hospital and his family was contacted.

He was assessed, staged and started on chemotherapy. The once handsome young man with a bright future was now only a shadow of himself. He looked cachetic, his head was bald and his eyes were sunken and pale. He was in perpetual pain. He could do nothing but to lay down  on what might be his death bed and hope and pray. Even though the days appeared too long, just too long, the years seemed really short.

Lucy didn’t call back, she didn’t visit like she promised. He consoled himself with the thought that she might have heard of his condition and could not bear to see him like this, so refused to come. Or perhaps, that which seemed more likely, though more painful, that she may have found someone else who loved her the way she deserved and she has moved on.

Tears rolled down his eyes. His friends only came around during the first few weeks of admission, when he still looked human. A death sentence had been passed on him by the world. Only the doctors and his family still hoped for a miracle. He no longer had visitors, no more phone calls. He looked through his contact list, they were still all there. Some had happy display pictures, no one looked like they still remembered him. The world had moved on without him.

Lucy’s display picture was her sitting across a dinner table with a glass of Chapman in a fancy restaurant. She had always asked him to take her there, she was a romantic and she thought it was the most romantic spot in town. Someone must have taken her there, someone must have snapped this picture. She looked happy. He wanted to call her and apologize for the one millionth time. His voice failed him. She didn’t care anymore. All he had now were God and family. So he said a little prayer to God, then opened the chat with family, precisely his sister, it was still showing their last message, “…what exactly are you going to get out of doing this, seriously, answer me, what?”
He put his fingers on the keypad and typed, “Cancer…. Cancer is the answer”. He back spaced it again, closed the chat and closed his eyes, attempting to sleep through the pain he felt.

Cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable health issues in the world. Tobacco smoke contains at least 250 harmful chemicals of which nearly 70 can cause cancers. Some of these chemicals include arsenic, benzene, beryllium, toluene, formaldehyde, e.t.c
Smoking harms virtually every organ in the body, the most serious of its effects being cancer, which include cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, stomach, pancreas, cervix, leukemias.
Smoking has also been implicated in heart diseases, stroke, aortic aneurysms, where an artery in the chest balloons out and could rupture or cause a disruption to normal blood flow, bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive airway disorders, emphysema, to name but a few.

Cigarette smoking is so dangerous that it also affects people who do not smoke, especially in children. Exposure or being around a smoker puts the innocent non smoker at risk too.
Smoking can lead to abortions in pregnant women, birth defects and prematurity and low birth weight in the babies who survive.

Cigarette contains nicotine which is naturally occurring in tobacco. It is the main reason why smoking is addictive, similar to the kind of addiction produced by heroin and cocaine.

When you quit smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure normalizes, your bloods carbon monoxide level decreases and your blood can transport oxygen more effectively, your circulation improves, the chest pain, cough and tightness, phlegm production and wheezing all subside as your lung function improves.

You also have a better sense of smell and an improved taste for food. You also look younger with less wrinkles and you save yourself a ton of money.

Risk of heart diseases, lung diseases and cancers all drop. The earlier the age you quit, the lower the risks. However, at whatever age you quit, there are still significant health benefits as mentioned above,

Quitting requires a lot of will power and support, but first of all, you have to make up your mind. You can always seek help from support group or go to see your doctor.

People have done it and succeeded, so can you.

Stan was on some extremely discomforting and painful intravenous anti cancer medications.

After five months of therapy, his condition was deteriorating. He had been scheduled to have a surgery in a week, but the doctors were still debating on the benefit of it at the stage he was at.

He was lying down in his corner in the oncology ward of the hospital and he heard his phone ring. He doesn’t get a lot of calls anymore. He was so weak, he couldn’t move. Even if he is able to lift the phone, he may not be able to speak. He rolled over and looked at the phone screen, it showed, “Lulu Calling”.

She had not called him in ages, he was missing her to death, like literally. He wanted to hear her voice again. His arms were weak, his strength had failed, he had not been able to move for a few days now. With all the strength he could muster, he lifted his arm, pushed the green answer button on the phone. He heard her, “Hello, hello Stan”, came the distant voice from inside the phone lying next to him, he tried to open his mouth to speak but he wasn’t able to. Her voice was still the same, she pronounced his name just the same. The voice that made the most memorable times of his life. As tears rolled down his eyes, as he couldn’t answer, he was able to let out a smile. “Hello, hello, can you hear me?” the voice went on.

Attention was drawn to his bedside by the sudden monitor alarm which had gone off. He was found lying motionless. He had his phone in his hands, it was ringing a second time.

All attempts at resuscitation failed. His pupils were fixed and dilated, he had no cardiac nor respiratory activity. The doctor on duty placed his hands on his forehead, slid it down and closed his eyes for him and pronounced him dead.

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