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2004 Surgeon General's Report—The Health Consequences of Smoking

Video News Release (VNR)—Cancer in the Family

View VNR–Cancer in the Family
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Elizabeth: “You feel separated from the whole world. I mean you feel like you’re the only one.”

Mathew: “It’s on your mind all the time.”

Voice-over: This is the Tree House Gang…

Malcolm: “I get really mad that she has to suffer.”

Voice-over:…It’s a club no kid wants to join.

Andrew: “I’m Andrew and my Dad has cancer.”

Voice-over: To be a member, you have to have a parent who is surviving…or has died…from cancer.

Michael: “You may think they’re on a vacation and they’ll come back.”

Voice-over: The Tree House Gang at Atlanta’s DeKalb Medical Center was formed to help grieving children. Dr. Holly Middleton facilitates the group.

Dr. Holly Middleton: “When kids come to the Tree House Gang for the first time usually they are in shock. When a family experiences illness like cancer. It calls into question everything that family has thought to be true.”

Voice-over: The only truth for children whose parent has cancer may be that they never know what will happen next.

Drue: "Like I know we always say I love you to my Mom right before we go to school or anything just like in case something would happen.”

Voice-over: More than two years ago Drue’s mother Ann was diagnosed with lung cancer. Within a year following her diagnosis, Ann’s cancer progressed to Stage 4—or advanced cancer, and had spread to her lymph nodes and spine.

Ann: “I was diagnosed on Valentine’s Day 2002 and haven’t had a cigarette since.”

Voice-over: After surgery, debilitating chemotherapy and radiation, and an arsenal of drugs, Ann’s disease is in remission.

Ann: “The bottom line was I was willing to do whatever it took to live. It is an incredible experience to get a kind a death sentence that I got."

Voice-over: And the death sentence is staggering for Americans who smoke. Dr. Richard Carmona is the Surgeon General of the United States.

Dr. Carmona: “Smoking causes about four hundred and forty thousand deaths per year in our country. But for every person to die there are twenty others who have serious disease associated with smoking.”

Voice-over: The newly released Surgeon General’s report chronicles the health effects of smoking.

Dr. Carmona: “There are many things new in this report. We have strong information now that just about every organ in your body is affected by smoking.”

Voice-over: The list of diseases caused by smoking has been expanded to include abdominal aortic aneurysm, cataracts, pneumonia, periodontal disease, acute myeloid leukemia, as well as cancers of the cervix, kidney, pancreas, and stomach.

Dr. Carmona: “Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. On average, smoking shortens your life by thirteen to fourteen years. That means you won’t get to see your grandchildren or your children as long as you’d like."

Voice-over: Ann’s husband, David.

David: “All of the patterns I had established, all of the expectations I had for the way our lives were gonna go were all out the window at that moment. And so I think I was mad at everything. Me, her, the kids. Ask them, they’ll tell you."

Jaime: “I was always trying to get her to stop before it happened.”

Voice-over: Like most children, Ann’s son Jamie has strong feelings about his mother’s smoking and lung cancer.

Dr. Holly Middleton: “I think when children have a parent who has lung cancer there’s a guilt feeling involved that’s a little bit deeper and a little bit heavier than that with other children who have parents who have cancer unrelated to any activity that they’ve had in their lives.  And what I mean by that is the children are so mad at their parents for smoking. How could you do that to yourself because look what you’re doing to my life. You are ruining my life because you’re sick and you might die and then you leave me and you did that.  There’s that anger, but right on the heels of that is I shouldn’t be feeling that."

Dr. Carmona: "It’s a terrible tragedy to lose a parent. And when you’re young and lose that sense of stability and security in your life — it’s terrible.”

Ann: “I think there’s a lot about cancer that’s all about fear.  Of course, I’m afraid it will come back. So I try to acknowledge the fear and then let it go because it gets in the way of enjoying right now. And right now I’m really fine.”



Page last updated May 27, 2004