Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Av 5761 - August 1, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Observations: Paying the Price of a Pack a Day: Confessions of a Five-Decade Smoker

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

"I am 68 years old, and until four years ago, I smoked without thinking twice for 48 years. Over the last four years I have had to pay a very high price for smoking," says D.A., a well-known figure from the center of the country, as the opening words to his chilling account of smoking and of the damage it caused to his lungs and brain.

The firsthand account, which has been transmitted to Yated Ne'eman by Rav Yechezkel Escheik, has been highly instrumental in efforts to educate and inform the chareidi public about smoking prevention.

"I started smoking at a young age. I took my first puff at the age of 16 at a Purim party held at my yeshiva. I smoked filtered cigarettes, believing that the filters protect from harmful substances.

"For years I got by on one pack a day, but there were also a few years during which I was smoking up to two packs a day. Four years ago I felt that I was in bad shape. I had chest pains and prickling in my left hand. I went to the emergency room and they decided to admit me to conduct some tests. That was just before Shabbos Hagodol. I held a seder lying on my back in bed, with my family far away at home.

"When I was admitted to the Department of Internal Medicine I was sent for a chest x-ray, a routine procedure which every patient undergoes. The x-ray revealed a blemish in the lower lobe of my right lung. A CT scan was performed and the blemish was diagnosed as a growth that would require further investigation. During chol hamoed I underwent an angioscope (tzentur) and by Shevi'i Shel Pesach I was already home.

"I took the x-rays to get a second opinion from an expert and he said unequivocally, `Mr. A., you have had it good so far. You had your kicks without thinking twice. You smoked and breathed it all in. Now it has to be taken out--your malignant tumor has to be removed, and it's going to mean surgery.'

"I was shocked. I couldn't believe this could happen to me. `But I'm fine,' I said. `My hospitalization had nothing to do with smoking, it was just chest pains . . . '

"I was sent for a biopsy to verify his diagnosis and after ten days of horrible suspense, the results came in . . . I underwent surgery to have the tumor removed, and for three and a half years I have been undergoing treatment, examinations and follow-ups. Two and a half months ago I felt strange sensations in my head. CT and MRI scans were performed and a large metastasis was found in my cerebellum. It was clear that this metastasis had ascended from the lung. One week before Pesach I underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor. Now I'm back to radiation therapy.

"I have undergone two operations in four years and I still have a long way to go--follow-ups, examinations, x-rays, administerial procedures, financial expenses and emotional strain. Add to this the tension and fear everyone has been going through and you have a real suspense story that I would rather do without. My eldest son is 40 years old and he stopped smoking as soon as my condition became known. My younger son was a heavy smoker and it took him longer to quit, but now he hasn't come anywhere near a cigarette for two years. It's a shame I have had to undergo so much to convince me to throw cigarettes into the "biur chometz" fire once and for all. My conclusion is that just as you have to be careful about what you say, it is also crucial to be careful about what you put in your mouth."

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