Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Deciphering the Smoke Signals: New Study Reveals Cigarette Smoking May Speed MS Progression

My second article is hot off the virtual press!

 In it I tackle smoking and recent study results regarding its effect on a person with multiple sclerosis. We've all known for a very long time that smoking is bad for us. I know first hand. I was a pack-a-day smoker for over 30 years. I only quit because I was terrified it would complicate things when I joined the TRANSFORMS trial back in 2007. The idea of "what if" plagued me and I figured I had the best shot at minimizing a negative outcome if I quit doing the one thing that was within my own control.

So on July 4th, 2007, I awoke for the first day in as long as I could remember and didn't start the day with the familiar comfort of a lung full of smoke. Instead, I pushed my way past the haze and the hurdles, the brain fog and the biting cravings, and made it through one day without succumbing to temptation.

It was no coincidence that I quit on the 4th of July. No, I wanted the country to celebrate my anniversary of quitting each year with a sky full of fireworks. No matter that they don't know me, nor would they even care. In my own mind, it's enough to believe it's a celebration of a turning point in my life.

Quitting smoking and joining the trial were the two best–and most health-transforming–things I have done in my life. Of course I tell my children that an even greater feat than quitting smoking would be to never have taken up the habit in the first place. But I'll take what I can get and hope the youngest keeps a level head and avoids curiosity, peer pressure, and the idiotic notion that "I can try it and not get hooked."

I noticed that I felt better. It wasn't right away, but over time. The hacking morning cough stopped. I could take a deep breath. I could smell even the most delicate of scents again. My taste buds exploded with excitement. It was especially nice to have my hair and clothing stay clean smelling.

During the TRANSFORMS study we had pulmonary function tests (PFT) to test our lung function since earlier studies of Fingolimod demonstrated a possibility of developing a slight asthma-like condition. I was both happy and relieved when I learned my lung function was normal. I felt like I had dodged a bullet. I was so glad I quit when I did.

I didn't use any smoking cessation techniques or tools unless you count those individually wrapped Dove Promises dark chocolate bars. I worked my way up to a pack a day of those bad boys. Between that and the sheer terror I felt going into the trial, they were enough to remind me of my goal of controlling my MS. To me, that was worth pushing through the cravings as they came at me. Taking them on one at a time and dealing with only the moment I was immediately facing.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I am proud to say I have never put even one single cigarette to my lips again (my secret tip for remaining a non-smoker).

I'm not writing this to be preachy. I'm not better than you because I don't smoke. I used to be a smoker and when you smoke, the most annoying person in the room is the recovered smoker. They want to foist their opinions and best intentions on you, figuring you never got the memo that it's bad for you, regardless of the Surgeon General's love note on the side of every pack. You'll quit when/if you are damn good and ready. I know that because I thought that.

All I am doing here is presenting some really interesting info in this article (which I'm sure you're going to rush right over and read, am I right?) about how MS is affected when you smoke.

Knowledge is power. I'm hoping anyone who has MS, smokes, and is miserable with lots of disease activity might consider the facts and conduct their own experiment. If you quit and start feeling better, let me know. I'd love to do a follow-up post.

Thanks for reading. By the way, my great readers boosted the Facebook "recommends" of my first article to nearly 400. I'm just fascinated by that and deeply appreciative.

So let's do it again! :)

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