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Why I Fight: Garret Mathews

I watched Mom die from smoking-induced lung cancer. I wrote the piece because I want folks to know that even smoking only a few cigarettes a day can be fatal.

You smoke.

Betsy Mathews

Betsy Mathews

Oh, not a lot. Seven, maybe 8 a day.

Mom was like that.

If necessary, you can go two or three hours between puffs. A movie. A dinner party. A Little League game.

Mom was like that.

You don’t smoke in the house, a nod to your spouse who quit cigarettes under surgeon’s orders after his heart attack.

Mom was like that.

You mostly light up outside. In the garden. On the porch. In the rocking chair beside the bird feeder.

Mom was like that.

You’re much too polite to smoke in the car, or around family members who don’t have the addiction. You tell people that, yes, even one cigarette is bad, but at least you’re not like those huddled wretches who fill their lungs inside smoking booths at airports and rail stations.

Mom was like that.

Betsy Mathews started smoking in 1944, her freshman year in college. She kept it up for 70 years until X-rays revealed two large, fast-growing tumors in her lungs.

She quit in the fall, but the doctor doubts it was discipline. More likely, he said, she inhaled one day and it felt like the devil breathing fire.

Death came two days after Christmas, six weeks after the diagnosis.

Mom was an active, vibrant person who ate the right foods and kept her weight down. Smoking-induced cancer stole her too soon from the grandchildren and the little great-grandbaby she loved so much.

Betsy Mathews didn’t smoke like a fiend.

Not a lot at all. Seven, maybe 8 a day.

But they added up and now she’s dead.

When Mom still had enough strength to talk, I told her I’d like to write about cigarettes and lung cancer.

Is there anything you’d like to share? I wanted to know.

She whispered, “Tell them not to be like me.”

Garret Mathews is retired from writing the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press. In a 39-year career, he penned more than 6,500 columns on every subject from mail-order brides to Appalachian snakehandlers. You can read some of his work by going to www.pluggerpublishing.com and clicking on the Favorites icon. His email address is garretmath@gmail.com

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