Dear Mrs. Smith,
On October 24, 2013 I learned that your son Russ was terminally ill with cancer and that he had very little time left. When I was told that his cancer was oral, I asked the question that I (and every other tobacco chewer in the world) dreaded:
Did he chew tobacco?
When I learned that he did indeed chew tobacco and that it had ultimately caused his illness I simply quit chewing. Cold Turkey. I took out the chew I had in my mouth and I quit. I was nicotine free for eight days when Russ died on October 31, 2013.
Despite the tragedy of Russ’ death and despite the pain and suffering he undoubtedly felt, I really wanted the answer to my question to be “no”. I really wanted his cancer to be a freak thing. I wanted to dodge the bullet one more time – to keep up my lucky streak of never knowing anyone who had been affected by this disease. Because I really didn’t want to quit. No chewer REALLY does.
You see nicotine is a very dangerous mistress. It romances you into making horrible decisions. Like choosing tobacco over your children. Like leaving the Christmas dinner table to drive forty-five minutes to an open C-store because you realized you were out of chew. Like buying a bottle of soda just so you can dump it out and have something to spit in. Like putting off quitting until “the time is right”. It whispers in your ear and seduces you like the Sirens of myth. And some do not get out alive.
I am so very sorry for your loss. As meaningless and as baseless as it seems, please understand that Russ’ death was not in vain. As hollow as that sounds, it was not for nothing. I have been nicotine free for 131 days and I will NEVER go back. I will never heed the Siren’s call again. And there are others who will read this and finally understand that they are locked in a life-or-death battle and that tomorrow simply is not the day to quit this evil addiction. That today is the only day that matters.