Cancer and Quitter Stories

Monday Morning From Iraq

Shoot2Kill avatarMorning fellas…grab a cup of joe, this could be a long one.

Things are good over here in the sandbox – it’s hot as a mother effer but what’s new. I have a story that I have to share with you guys – one that may really hit home.

The place I work is a medical facility that sees all kinds of weird things…we have an ER, an ICU, a dental office, mental health offices, etc. We get random traumas now and then, but for the most part we function as a clinic for the base we’re on. Yesterday morning an Army soldier came in complaining of lower left side tooth pain. Usually I’ll check them in, call the dentist up and the dentist will take them away. With is being Sunday though the dentist was off and we needed to radio him to come in. In the meantime I checked him in and did a short triage note and asked him about his dental pain. He told me…”I know what it is man, but I can’t bear to look in the mirror at it”. I said “What do you mean?” and he opened his mouth, pulled back his lower lip, and I nearly SHIT myself. He had a GIGANTIC lesion in his “dip pocket”. I’ve never seen one in person but I knew exactly what it was from all the pictures I’ve seen of the results of dipping.

So…there I was…staring in the face of a man I didn’t know but was about to bust out every line ever used in QSX to help this guy before the dentist showed up. As soon as I told him I was on day 326 of quitting Cope he opened up to me like a book.

Same story as all of us…dipping since he was 19 – 11 years for him – he just turned 30. This is his second tour to Iraq and he’s got 10 months to go on this one. He’s out in the field for 2 weeks, back at base for 1 week, and so on basically his whole tour. He dips a minimum of 2 cans of Cope per day so you do the math – 14 days in the field at 2 cans per day = 28 cans he needs before heading out. Logs come 5 tins to a log here so he said he usually buys 6 logs every time they go out and usually ends up bumming dips from his buddies after he runs out. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…it was like the forum was spilling out to me in real life.

He told me how hard it is for him to not dip, how it is his only connection to the real world, how it’s what ties him to home and everything he knows, how it gets him through each day because it’s the only constant in his life. The guy was just spilling his guts to me about his addiction. He knew he was addicted and said he can’t live without it, but he hates it – (the exact thing I thought the day before I found this site last September). He had never really tried quitting because nearly everyone in his unit dips so he never thought it was possible with all the pressure he would get.

We were still trying to get in touch with the dentist, so I kept talking to him. I asked him about the lesion and he said “I knew it was there, I could feel it with my tongue, but I haven’t looked at my mouth in the mirror in over 3 months. I was too ashamed and didn’t want to admit the reality so I just kept dipping on the other side of my mouth”. I could see the pain in this guys eyes because he knew he did this to himself and finally couldn’t take the pain of his tooth and the lesion any longer so he came to see us.

The dentist finally showed up, did his exam, and basically said there was no way that we could determine the status of the lesion if it was cancerous or not with our limited resources here, so he recommended the soldier be aerovaced to Germany where they have further capabilities to work on him, test the lesion, and keep him in the hospital for a while, etc.

The soldier was nearly in tears thinking about leaving his unit to be aerovaced because of somethings he’s slowly done to himself. Those men are bonded and they will do about anything to stay with their unit.

So we aerovaced him last night to Balad, where he then would be sent on to Germany today. Before he left I told him about life without dip and how it’s possible and how QSX works. He said if he makes it back to Iraq he doesn’t get to be on a computer much so he’d have trouble posting roll call. So I came to the computer and printed off “The Secret of Our Success” by the Bluesman, Spongebob Montra, and the Quit Contract. On the back of the quit contract I wrote in big letters “ONE DAY AT A TIME” and all of my email addresses and told him to keep those on him and read them as many times a day as it takes to get him through the times he can’t be close to the computer.

Before leaving he shook my hand and said for the first time in his dipping life he has hope. He then reached into his BDU leg pocket and pulled out a half full tin and 2 unopened tins of Cope and with a big smile he told me “flush them fuckers”. For the first time since getting to Iraq, I felt like I finally made a real difference and it had nothing to do with the military or medicine. 30 years old, dipping for 11 years, and the guy had lesions…that could have been me had I not found this site.

So…keep your eyes peeled for a newbie that posts from Iraq. I hope like hell he emails me and joins KTC when he can. I can’t even imagine the life he lives day to day over here but I hope he takes those 3 things I printed him and puts them to use. Other than listening to him and being a QSX preacher that’s about all I could do for him – I hope it was enough to help and I’m extremely thankful I just happened to be working yesterday.

Anyway…that’s my Monday morning story from Iraq.

NOTE: This piece written by forum member Shoot2Kill

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