Last week at physio, there was a morning that was fairly quiet, and the three other couples on my on my side of the room all bonded over their health woes (there were two newbies and one post-transplant). I had sadly forgotten my headphones so I had no choice but to listen to their conversation to help pass the time. I learned that all of them use to be smokers, how their health declined at a shockingly rapid rate, and that they all felt better before they had to quit smoking (except for the post-transplant person). One of them seemed to imply that smoking withdrawal was the reason they felt so bad instead of their crappy lungs.
I had conflicted feelings listening to the conversation. Part of me wanted
to say that they only had themselves to blame for smoking all those years and
that they had no right to complain when I was there because of something I have
no control over. And how dare they get lungs before me. But then I felt bad for
feeling that way because 1) Just because someone has it worse doesn't mean the
person doesn't have a right to complain about their problems; 2) I'm sure the
people who smoked have already beat themselves up over it and don't need more piling
on from strangers; and 3) just because my disease is genetic, doesn't mean that
I don't also have some control over my health.
Obviously I didn't yell at anyone but it made me realize how easy it is to
blame people for their health problems. It's easy to say that people who smoke
who get lung cancer or copd only have themselves to blame. That they should
have just not smoked in the first place and they would be fine. But it's never
that easy. I have no experience but I imagine that people don't start smoking thinking
that one day they hope it ruins their health and leads to a lung transplant.
They start because they need a coping mechanism for their stressors and
nicotine happens to be the best option. Unfortunately for the people at physio,
they were the ones who ended up being susceptible to pulmonary fibrosis or
cancer while their friends or family who smoke will live to be 94 with no
But someone doesn't have to have to smoke or have lung cancer to feel like
they are to blame for their health problems. There is part of me that feels
like it's my fault for requiring a lung transplant at this point in my life.
While I grew up knowing that I would most likely always need a transplant, I
feel as though I could have done more to stay healthy. If only I walked more
instead of taking the bus. I only I spent my vacations relaxing instead of
madly travelling. If only I didn’t stop running or had been more vigilant about
doing my second aerosol mask. And on and on. It’s hard to stop.
I've been trying reach some conclusion about why I want to yell at smokers
who are on the transplant list with me but I have yet to have an epiphany. Really, it doesn't really matter how we all got to this point, we're all in it together now.