DEAR ABBY: My husband's mother has been diagnosed with emphysema and deteriorating lungs. Last April, the doctor's prognosis was that she would die within the year. We decided to move to her hometown to be with her and the family during this time of crisis.
We have discovered that she still smokes cigarettes and doesn't use her oxygen as often as she should. Her doctor ordered her to quit working, so now she is home all day, and all she does is complain and talk about dying. Abby, if she's so worried about dying, why won't she quit smoking and try to make herself better? She is not that old.
She has four wonderful grandchildren to watch grow up, and my husband and I would like her to be around when WE have children. I feel like I'm hitting my head against a brick wall whenever I try to talk to her and give her words of encouragement. She refuses to go to another doctor for a second opinion, which I feel she needs to do.
Abby, what can the family and I do to help her see the light? I'm hopeful that if she sees this letter in the paper, she'll understand what we are going through. -- CONCERNED DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
DEAR CONCERNED: Your mother-in-law probably has not stopped smoking because she is hopelessly addicted to cigarettes and feels that because she is terminal, it's useless to fight a battle she has been told she will lose anyway.
Your suggestion that she seek a second medical opinion was excellent. No one should accept a death sentence without seeking a second opinion -- or even a third. Your husband and the other members of the family should schedule an appointment for Mom and see that she keeps it. Where there is life, there is hope.
Your letter is a timely one, because today marks the 23rd annual Great American Smokeout. For those who may not know about it, the Smokeout is an upbeat, good-humored, one-day campaign to encourage smokers to quit smoking for 24 hours -- just to prove to themselves they can do it.
In 1998, 19 percent of smokers (approximately 8,930,000 people) participated in the Great American Smokeout. Of those participating, 10 percent -- more than 890,000 adults -- reported that they were smoking less or not at all one to five days later. That's more than 89,000 people who are well on their way to healthier, smoke-free lives -- thanks to the American Cancer Society.
While "cold turkey" is the most difficult way to quit, I'm told it is also the most effective way to rid oneself of the habit. Those who need help or want more information about the effects of tobacco may call their local chapter of the American Cancer Society or (800) ACS-2345.
And so, Dear Readers, if you're hooked on tobacco and have been saying, "One of these days I've got to quit," why not join the Great American Smokeout and quit today? It won't be easy, but it will be the best holiday present you can give yourself and those who love you.