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On Being a Doctor |

Chained Smoker

David S. Shimm, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

University of Arizona; Tucson, AZ 85724 Requests for Reprints: David S. Shimm, MD, Department of Radiation Oncology, Health Sciences Center, University of Arizona, 1501 North Campbell Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85724.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1998;129(4):331-332. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-129-4-199808150-00013
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The man sat in the examination chair as the physician talked to him. He could feel the sunlight coming through the window, warming his face. If he looked toward the window, the sunlight dazzled him, and when he turned his face away, it still painted the periphery of his vision with a haze of red. To his right, he could see where pieces of plaster had fallen out of the walls and ceiling of the small examination room, leaving specks and blotches of white drywall showing through the dull, lime-green paint. Farther to his right, he could see the metal instrument table. Probes and mirrors lay in the half-opened drawers, neatly arranged, menacing. On the table, an alcohol lamp faintly flickered with a pungent smell that reminded him of his first, frightening encounters with his childhood physician. He felt a twinge of nausea.





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Posted on July 3, 2008
Joy N. Snead
No Affiliation
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

When I first read your article it was more of a story to me. We were too "good" and too "wealthy." No one in our families have ever smoked and only a glass of wine at special occasions. So it just didn't relate and I knew that it never would. We could never be that "man."

Well, in April my husband was diagnosed with tonsil cancer. We "caught it in the early stages" but the doctor misdiagnosed until one year later when it could not be mistaken as to what it was.

Now I read this article again and it means something entirely different to me than it did the first time. Although I have complete faith in our oncologists I fear for my husband's life. We have been growing apart for the past 5 years but it never dawned on me that I could lose him in a much more devastating way than divorce until I reread the article. I pray that never happens and I DO HAVE confidence in our doctors.

We only have one child. Neely is 25 and a psychologist. When she entered the University she started smoking. We begged her not to, but to no avail. PEERS! I made her reread the article and I'm making her aware of her father's cancer and the unpleasant treatment. Last night she called me crying. She was afraid of getting lung cancer and SHE HAS QUIT SMOKING.

So,to me your article ended up meaning so much more than just a minor warning to our family. I realize that little articles that may seem so insignificant to someone can actually reach out and touch them or someone in their family.

Now, I can say our family is 100% smoke free. It didn't solve our immediate problem but possibly will help Neely make better choices in her future.

Thanks Dr. Shimm

Sincerely, Joy S

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