A Bittersweet Day

by on February 21, 2011 · 18 comments

in Environment, Health, Life Events, Popular, The Widder Curry

February 21st – a day of joy; a day of sorrow. Today is my birthday; Today also marks the 17 month anniversary of my husband’s death. Right next to my birthday candles will be a memorial candle to Bob. This article is not so much about my birthday as it is about Bob’s death. You see, he died of LUNG CANCER 18 months after it was diagnosed.

Bob was a smoker for 30 years. He admitted to smoking 3 packs a day before he quit 34 years ago. If he “admitted” to 3 packs a day, one can’t help but wonder just how many packs he really smoked daily. It doesn’t matter, because he ranked giving up smoking as his #1 accomplishment in life. His Ph.D was secondary to giving up smoking.

I remember one day after he had told me he quit, that I spotted his car driving down Sunset Cliffs ahead of me by 2-3 cars. It looked rather strange until I realized that he had his jacket “pinned” by the closed window, flapping in the breeze, to get rid of the tobacco smell. He hadn’t given up smoking after all. Another time he made a frantic call to the dentist to find out why he had so many sores in his mouth. Turned out he was chewing cinnamon gum so often he developed an allergy to it. Why the gum you ask? So that I wouldn’t smell the cigarettes on his breath.

Last year I heard about the “San Diego Breath of Hope Lung Cancer Walk”. It was the 2nd time that the LUNG CANCER ALLIANCE put on the 5K walk. I had just lost 100 pounds; had never walked anywhere before, but decided that for “my Bobby” I would try to complete the walk. I owed it to him to try.

Eighteen friends and family walked with me on that day. Friends that I met after he died; friends that had known him for years; students that lived with us to learn to speak English; and some of our children. We were honoring his memory.

Lung Cancer research is the lowest funded research of all of the cancers. Yet it is the #1 killer of all ethnic groups in the United States. And, unfortunately, it is usually diagnosed as Stage IV – the final and last stage of its life. There are few symptoms that manifest itself in its early stages.

Following the 2nd Annual Walk last year I was horrified to find that the Union Tribune did not even report on it. I wrote to them about their lack of coverage, and they published my letter. It follows:

“ Dear Editor,

As a recent widow of a man that died of lung cancer, I am appalled at the lack of coverage you gave (or didn’t give) the Lung Cancer 5K Walk this past Sunday, May 2nd. There were over 770 walkers in the event, and over $100,000 was raised. What a piddly amount compared to the Susan G. Komen 3Day walk that generated over 10 million dollars in San Diego alone.

Lung Cancer kills more Americans than breast, prostate, colon, live, kidney and melanoma cancers COMBINED, yet our only San Diego Newspaper did not report anything on this walk. To make matters worse, 50% of lung cancer victims have never smoked, or are former smokers. What a sad commentary of our times. Every 1 in 3 cancer deaths are from LUNG cancer. And, it is the least funded cancer in the research field today. How can you, the U/T justify no coverage for this event”

I would like to get the jump on the walk this year. It will be held on May 1st, and starts out at the Cancer Survival Park on Harbor Drive across from the airport. Registration takes place there and the easy – and beautiful walk – takes us to Harbor Island, around the point where Tom Hom’s restaurant is, and back to the pavilion for closing ceremonies. The cost is so minimal – $30 – compared to the Susan G. Komen registration fee of $2400! per walker. (That is the price of the “on-line registration.” It includes a ticket for the Padre/Astro game on June 4th.) And…the entry fee includes a shirt. I would love to have you walk with my “team” – called, “Judi’s Bobby.” Besides the Lung Cancer Walk shirt, some of us are purchasing shirts with Bob’s picture on it in his memory. They will cost about $15. But the big thing is not the purchase of anything. The BIG THING is to donate to the Lung Association.

I have many friends that still smoke. When they see me they get a guilty look on their face, as if they are doing something wrong. The guilt speaks for them.

It is that guilt that needs to be transformed into something positive. Perhaps saving their own life is the key.

If you are interested in joining us on May 1st, please check out the website at www.sdbreathofhope.kintera.org Go to “Participant Registration” and mark the “X” that tells them that you want to join an existing team. Again, my “team” is called “Judi’s Bobby.” You will find all the information there that you need.

Come on, Ragsters – let’s kick some butt(s) – let’s kick the habit for your life.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah February 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Hey Judi,

Here’s an organization I found through our work with oxygen dependent patients. I like the name as well as the mission.


I lost both my parents to lung cancer well before they turned 60. My dad went first in 1985 and my mom followed three years later. Both were former smokers. Both died within 18 months of diagnoses.


Sarah February 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm

… and a very big happy birthday wish for you.


annagrace February 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Judi- Happy Birthday! I am so glad that I have gotten to know you.


OB Mercy February 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Judi, happy birthday. My Mom also smoked 3 pks a day, but quit 30 yrs ago and then was diagnosed with Stage IV and was gone 7 mos later. It always turned me off and I have never even tried a puff. If I wasn’t recovering from hip surgery, I would do that walk. Maybe I’ll be ready by then. If not, you go girl!


Patty Jones February 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Happy Birthday sweet lady! And thanks for this.


Frank Gormlie February 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm

It’s a good thing I won’t mention but at a recent OB Rag meeting, most of the women were smoking during our after-meeting break.


Zach on the side February 23, 2011 at 8:05 pm

What’s a good thing? What won’t you mention?


RB February 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Judy, sorry for your loss. I hope you will be encouraged to know that once the money gets to the labs, all forms of cancer are studied not just breast cancer.

Breast cancer research funding benefits all forms of cancer. I worked on breast cancer funded grants for fifteen year. We always screened lung cancers, colon, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic, as well as breast cancer cell line. In fact, any new drug, even if funded and designed for breast cancer, will be sent to clinical trials on lung or pancreatic before any human studies on breast cancer patient.


Danny Morales February 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Judi- A Happy Birthday wish to you! As I mentioned before Bob befriended me when he was a member of Veterans for Peace so his loss was a personal one for me and the San Diego chapter of VFP as well. Again (perhaps bittersweet) Happy Birthday Judi and Bob Curry?-PRESENTE!


Diane5150 February 22, 2011 at 9:19 am

While I feel for your pain, we all die. If lung cancer doesn’t get us, something will kill all of us eventually. Your letter to the editor seemed more like a child screaming out that life is not fair.

I smoke, I’m tired of apologizing and having to endure the stares of the anti-smoking Nazis’. As I have recently survived being rear ended while riding my scooter and now have a broken back, I know very well how easily life can be lost and peace of mind disrupted.

Not a single one of us knows the hour or manner of our end. It is one of the last mysteries of life left to me. I ponder that mystery while smoking a cigarette, and drinking a cup of coffee. It is a paradox that someting so simple can have such deadly consequences.

Yet, I think about my ancestors. Men and women who came to this country as chicken farmers. People living off the land and all it provides, like tobacco. People who smoked and drinked and lived well into their eigthties and nineties. My mother is still living and smoking at 76 and my Dad died at 86.

I believe that when it is my time I will die. Until then I choose how I endure the suffering that comes to me. If lung cancer gets me, I’ll deal with it. I think I’d rather go in my sleep, but hey that’s just me.

Happy Birthday.

Yesterday was my birthday too.
Ironic huh?


Zach on the side February 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Lighting something on fire, and then inhaling the smoke from the fire? I never understood the appeal of smoking. It’s just a dumb idea and it punishes those who choose it. How could anyone, even before the ’60s and the Surgeon General’s warning, ever have thought smoking isn’t harmful? Oh sure, take lung tissues, microscopic structures moist, supple and pink, then to them add burning particles of soot and, well, I just don’t know, a metaphor for everything wrong with human behavior?

Happy Birthday, dear lady. How pleased I am, too, to have gotten to know you. ;)


Frank Gormlie February 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Fortunately or unfortunately, humans have been doing it for thousands, ney, tens of thousands of years. Because the ingredients of the smoked substance go directly to the lungs and then the blood and then the brain, there is more of an “instant” affect, than taking that same substance through the stomach.


Zach on the side February 23, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Naw, I believe smoking is about 1,000 years old. I suppose a bullet to one’s head would have an even more “instant” effect!


Frank Gormlie February 24, 2011 at 8:43 am

You mused why people have smoked over the centuries, and I was trying to give a physiological explanation. Marijuana / hemp – the natural and native plant fiber of much of Asia was smoked for thousands of years, Zach. Native Americans smoked several substances, and the arriving gringos took some of them up. Then they discovered that one could make tobacco even more addictive than it was naturally.


Diane5150 February 25, 2011 at 1:05 am

I believe I am qualified to answer the question of “wouldn’t a bullet, have a more instant effect.”

You are correct sir. I remember wandering the hills of Nevada in my motorhome with my cat, many years ago. I had a gun. A 380. I went through a ritual in preparation for my death, I won’t boar you with the details. However, I found myself in a desolate area target shooting and on the last shot in the clip I turned the gun into my mouth and pulled the trigger.

It jammed. I didn’t die. I have however survived several more attempts on my life by myself and by others.

I smoke. If you’d lived my life maybe you too would smoke. Who knows?
I know I’ve faced death many times and it keeps spitting me back out.

I try not to presume to know what is good for anyone, because my expiration date keeps getting pushed back. I keep asking why.


Zach on the side February 25, 2011 at 1:23 am

What a shocking and amazing story! Well, if a gun can’t get you, I don’t think smoking will be a problem. I don’t know what kind of life would have led you to make attempts on your life, or for others to do so as you indicated, but it says a little about the kind of person you are that you’ve survived them all. Please stop trying, though! You sound like a friendly and astute human being, and we can use more of those, not less.

The reason why your time has not yet come is clear. As Richard Bach said, “How do you know if you’ve finished what you came to this world to do? If you’re still alive, you haven’t.” Have a good day, Diane, and an even better one tomorrow.


Zach on the side February 24, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Thanks, Frank.


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