Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Suicide by Cigarette R.I.P. Dad

November 16, 1991 5am "David! David! Wake up!  Something's wrong with your father!"
Little did I know that my life would be forever changed that morning 20 years ago to the day. 

I've been going back and forth in my mind for months about doing this post.  Then today came without much pomp and circumstance and I decided that I wasn't going to talk about it.  It's something I've discussed privately or in 1 on 1 conversations in the past and honestly I'm fairly comfortable with it, I've just never really felt compelled to discuss it in a public forum. Then I taught my usual Wednesday night bootcamp class and somehow in the course of conversation it came up that one of my bootcampers lost her mother when she was 13 years old of the same cause.  We ended up having a nice conversation about our experiences.  I will spare you all the details; surely I have enough of a life story to write a full chapter, maybe even a book and if you know me at all, to say i'm long-winded is an understatement!

That fateful day my father passed away at the age of 46.  The Cause?  Acute Myocardial Infarction aka Heart Attack. I'm writing to you today not to seek your sympathy nor to gain any closure for myself, I've long since come to terms with it.  I'm writing in hopes that maybe, just maybe I can get through to one person out there who is living a lifestyle like my father was.  See my dad did just about everything wrong.  He wasn't an incredibly unhealthy looking man on the surface.  6'2 maybe around 280lbs at his heaviest.  If you know me, my dad was built similarly.  Massive calf muscles, big strong legs and massive arms.  My dad was a mechanic and I remember him carrying rear axles of trucks around the yard like it was a tiny barbell!  He definitely had a bit of a belly but far less than many of my others friends dad's had.  He was just a big, strong man.  A big strong man with a cigarette habit that ranged from a pack at it's best (that was rare) to 3 packs a day at it's worst (worst was probably closer to the norm).  A big strong man with high blood pressure.   A big strong man on several medications including nitroglycerin for his Angina.  I remember my dad going to doctors visits when I was a kid and he would come home saying the same thing "Doc says I need to eat better, quit smoking, and exercise"  He never did.  " I have the duCille knees, I can't exercise" he would say referencing the knee replacement that he, my grandmother and his sister (my Auntie Ann) had.  The sad thing is that he never even truly ATTEMPTED to make any changes.  I remember once or twice he came home with nicorette gum and it would just go in the cabinet (I think me and my preteen friends probably stole it and chewed it but thats another story! lol!)  He never even attempted the basic diet programs the doctors recommended.  Before I continue, I want you to stop and understand what a 3 pack a day cigarette habit is:

20 cigarettes in a pack x 3 packs = 60 cigarettes a day.  24 hours a day- 6 hours spent sleeping =18 hours awake  60 cigarettes/18 hours =  3 1/3 cigarettes per hour or 1 cigarette every 18 minutes.  Spend 3 minutes smoking a cigarette, wait 15 minutes.  Do it again.  Continue until death.  Suicide by Cigarette.

In my line of work, I deal with people with all sorts of issues.  I pride myself on looking at EVERY client individually and focusing on their specific needs.  I never try to force my notions of the perfect body or lifestyle on anyone, it's just not feasible.  But please, if you are a cigarette smoker I beg you, STOP.  Plain and simple.  I don't care if you gain 50 lbs as a result of quitting (weight gain is a common and legitimate side effect of quitting); that 50 extra pounds is nowhere near as damaging to your health as those cigarettes.  
It's a nasty habit, it's not easy to do but there is help available.

My father left behind a sister, brother, 2 sons, 2 daughters, and in a cruel twist of fate was set to remarry the very day of his heart attack.  He never saw me graduate high school or college.  He's missed out on 7 awesome grandkids.  He's missed out on opportunities to make amends for his other past failings.  The way I see it, the only thing my dad did quit on was life.  He kinda got the easy way out while others had to live with the harsh realities of his mistakes.
I'm sorry for this very disjointed rough draft of a blog post, just wrote it down off the cuff but I think the message is too important to be left unsaid.  In this media driven age we live in we have unprecedented access to help.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  By my own admission I am TERRIBLE at asking for help.  I had to be independent from a young age and I'm used to getting through things on my own but trust me, whatever you are going through, others have been through it already and no matter how helpless you may feel, there is help out there.


  1. Very well said bro! I starrted reading this just as I lit up. I never knew just how you felt. I will quit! I know I need to stop making excuses and just do it!

  2. Duce! You have said what needs to be said. Your family's early loss of your father was not necessary, but the silver lining is that many others have now had the chance to learn from it. Discipline and dedication to a healthy lifestyle is VERY HARD! Whether it's quitting smoking, becoming consistently active, getting checkups, or just eating healthier, it takes extreme dedication that cannot be done alone. I have a few people I will send this to--they need to read it. Thank you.

  3. My mother has been smoking since she was 9. She is now demonstrating some very catastrophic effects of this nasty habit including the manifestation of some huge tumor. Not fun to encounter when you don't even have health insurance. I was only informed about it three weeks ago. Due to a strain in our relationship I have not spoken to her in over two years which is another story but in short she's not bad but it is hard to watch someone slowly kill his or herself over the years. She is the queen ingestor of junk of food and deep fried food. She never exercises although she is not overweight - thanks to cigarette eating. She just leads a pretty reckless life. Just this past weekend, I started what will be a comprehensive letter to discuss some things so she knows we are good no matter what happens. After reading the matter re: your father I feel inspired to revisit the theme of her making an effort to take care of herself. I am grateful you did share this because it helps me feel good about the committment I continue to follow through on and that is to be in decent health to the extent I can control it. I have to say I have finally surrendered to being mindful of the nutritional aspects of good health and not just doing silo focus on exercising. It is working. Sorry to sound cheesy but I am truly sorry you and your family had such a loss; it's terrible. Your dad would be beaming if he could see you now. Namaste.

    Your Kid & Play Twin. :-)

  4. Dave, this is such a compelling story. I am very sorry for your loss. My mom stopped smoking cold turkey when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is lucky because she is in remission, and almost 10 years later, she is still smoke free. It scared her that much to stop. She did gain weight, but also started an exercise program to combat the weight issue. So, if you are a glass is half full person, that diagnosis accomplished two things: quiting smoking and starting to exercise. Change is always hard - and exercise and a healthy lifestyle is not easy, but if it was, then everyone would be doing it! But if you look at my facebook page and the picture of Aimee M - the woman who is an olympian who runs on prosthetic legs, then there really are no excuses for people to just start moving. ITS NEVER TOO LATE TO START MOVING!

    Thanks for sharing this very compelling story.

  5. David- Just wanted to let you know that I remember going through this with you and after reading this story brings back so many memories. I want you to know that when this happened my parents were devastated as well as me and my brother because we could not imagine life without a Mom or Dad and I can remember my father on several occasions saying that he would adopt you as one of his own. I know that your Dad is looking down on you and he would be so proud of the person you have become and all of your accomplishments!!! Melinda

  6. Nice post...and well said Dave. Hope you are happy...your smile always seems to say that you are! XOXO Kelsey

  7. Thanks guys, its been an overwhelmingly positive showing of support from all over, I shouldn't have waited 20 years to get it out!