Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Moving Violations

For years I have driven the same path every morning. I mastered the twists and turns, ups and downs, long ago. Occasionally, as the sun rises, I hallucinate that the roads have become like a patient. The gravel echos in the harshness of a straining voice. The squealing tires mimic the high pitched wheeze of distant lung sounds. The billowing smoke stacks in my rear view mirror recall the pack of cigarettes carefully placed in the breast pocket of a barrel chest.

This morning as I drove down the lonely expressway, I noticed a blue SUV approaching rapidly. With panic, I realized that less then a mile away was a speed trap where a police car often waited to snare unsuspecting victims at a bend in the road. I quickly pulled into the left lane to cut off the oncoming SUV. I felt a sense of camraderie and wanted to protect this complete stranger. I was hoping I could slow him down just enough to avoid the inevitable.

The SUV charged forward within a car length, and then flashed his turn signal. Anticipating the move, I cautiously veered between both lanes knowing that the bend was coming. Unfortunately the SUV pulled around me and sped away.

Moments later, a flash of lights and sirens confirmed that my attempts had been unsuccessful. I continued down the road and took the next exit to my office.


The oncologists voice seemed so far away over the telephone line.

I saw your patient today. The cat scan showed that despite chemotherapy the lung cancer has progressed.

I winced and stared down at the ground. I absentmindedly kicked at the side of the desk as I tried to concentrate on the computer screen and listen to the phone at the same time. I felt powerless. My voice, barely above a whisper, came out unsteadily.

So what can we do for him now?

The oncologist paused.

Hospice. That is, unless you can go back thirty years ago and stop him from smoking in the first place.


Sometimes I see a moving violation before it happens. Yet often I am helpless nonetheless.

I recall countless conversations about quitting.

But when you get to a certain point, inevitability sets in.

You can no longer undo whats already been done.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Though I recognize the connection between an increased risk of lung cancer and smoking, we must also recognize that many many people get lung cancer who haven't been exposed tobacco smoke.

Because of the association between smokers and lung cancer that has been hyped in the last 20 years, Lung Cancer research has been poorly funded. Lung Cancer patients have observed a bias in their care because society feels "they got what they deserved."

Since there are as many people getting lung cancer who have smoked as those that have, to perpetuate a continued stereo type is labeling ALL people with lung cancer as self afflicted. Not a healthy or fair stereo type and one that is proving harmful to patients who need and deserve care and treatment.

Do we reduce funding to heart research because we are realizing and connecting eating bacon or McDonalds with heart disease? No.