A smoker’s story

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Thursday, July 3, 2014


ENDING a bad habit is one of the most difficult to undertake, especially so to one who have had the vice for quite some time, say, when he was still young and he is now past 50 or 60 years old.

It could be the habit of drinking a few bottles of liquor after work before going home in the early evening, or smoking a stick of cigarette or a roll of tobacco leaf after dinner. But then, it becomes a vice over time.

Those who prefer smoking may become a chain smoker and soon have a lung problem, which is often the end result of the vice. To a frequent drinker, the end result is called alcoholism, and often places the liver at risk.

One would be at a greater risk if he prefers both smoking and drinking and is called a chain smoker and an alcoholic. My late mother called it “burning ones candle at both ends.”

My late mother, a public school teacher, was a stickler for discipline. Even when I was only in grade school, I was already adept at playing “hide-and-seek” with her about the naughty games I played, such as sneaking off to the nearby seashore to take a bath with friends. That was a “no-no” to her because we did not yet know how to swim, although we only dug for or snared land crabs.

At any rate, it was my late grandfather who introduced me to smoking rolled tobacco leaf when he was confined for a week in the municipal dispensary due to a wounded left foot.

There was no hospital in the town then, and his younger brother was the sanitary inspector, so he had no problem being confined there. I kept him company during the weekend and that was when I stole a whiff from his rolled tobacco leaf. Of course, I got stoned.

But that got me started on the road to chain smoking until the late ‘80s when I was burning more than two packs of king-size cigarettes as a columnist of this newspaper.

I recall that during those days, when I climbed to the third floor of our office building to where the accounting department was, I had to pause to take my breath every five or six steps up. But I never thought it was due to my smoking at all.

One day a couple of months later, I felt numb in my left side and was short of breath.

It affected my left arm and side. When I took deep breaths, the numbness seemed to subside. So, I repeated the process for some time. But the numbness became so frequent that my family decided to bring me to the hospital.

My physician, Dr. Ophelia C. Buot, whose father also hails from our town, Balamban (he was the town’s first mining engineer], had me admitted to the Cebu Doctors Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU).

When she had me released after three days, I asked Dr. Buot what I should do from then on. She was quite blunt with her reply. She said I had two options. I could choose between my life and my cigarettes. She said this in a kind of take it or leave it tone, in the mildest finality.

Of course, there was no choice and no compromise. I stopped smoking. I think more than a year later, I discovered that I was climbing building stairs straight up without pausing.

I celebrated my 84th birthday last May and I feel I can still climb stairs.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 04, 2014.

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