• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

— Like any honest endorser, Lucas was a smoker. "I smoked all different kinds of cigarettes. I became a smoker when I was in college -- I was 17, maybe 18. I guess I started partly as a revolt against my parents, who were against smoking. The other part was peer pressure. All the girls were smoking in college. During my third year, I was at various hospitals in New York. I guess I was a little homesick, so I just started to smoke. Nobody thought there was anything terribly offensive about it then, and nobody knew about any of the dangers of it. Although, while I was still modeling, a doctor named Ernst Winder was lecturing in New York, and he claimed that cigarette smoke and tar caused cancer. He was experimenting with mice. I dated him for a while, and he used to say, 'You shouldn't smoke,' but he smoked! I just took it as sort of a joke. But my parents were against it. I think they just thought it was sinful. They were fairly religious people -- not ranting and raving or anything. A lot of adults in those days didn't smoke. It was mostly youngsters.

"The thing is, what they're doing now, they're trying to get children -- young girls, especially. Not so much young boys, because they have the sports, which require them to have strong respiratory capacity. They'd rather be the star football player than smoke. But the girls don't see anything wrong with it, and they don't believe they're ever going to die. Girls worry about their looks, and nobody has come forward and said, 'Look what it does to you.' "

As she points to the wrinkles that converge around her mouth, Lucas explains: "Just look what it does to your face. Not only can you die from it, but you'll look like this forever! Drawing on the cigarettes does this to your skin. You can tell the wrinkles of a smoker, because they go criss-cross."

As she describes the way she discovered her cancer, Lucas's disgust with the medical profession seems unchanged since the 1950s. "I smoked two packs a day for 55 years. I quit in February of 2001. I'm a nurse; I knew what was going on, and I knew I had lung cancer. I didn't know how bad it was or how far along I was. I hadn't had an X-ray in 13 years. This new doctor spent 14 minutes with me -- which is about what you can expect. He said, 'Your lungs sound awful.' He did a chest X-ray, and he called me and told me there was something in my upper right lung. He then ordered a CAT scan. I wasn't too hot on that; I didn't know him at all. That was around the end of January. After the scan, he had somebody I didn't know call me one morning. She said, 'The doctor wants you to have a lung biopsy.' Well, I knew what that meant. I asked her why, and she said, 'I don't know.' So I told her no. I said, 'I need to know why. It's beginning to sound like gun time to me.' It's outrageous to have somebody who doesn't even introduce themselves to call you and tell you that you have lung cancer.

"They called the police. They have this thing at the Center for Health Care that says if a person mentions a gun, they have to call the police. So they dragged me out of here in my nightclothes and handcuffs..." Lucas pauses for a deep breath. "They impounded my dog. It took me about ten minutes to convince them I was not crazy or dangerous, but it was too late for my dog." She begins to cry. "They force-fed him -- I think that's what killed him. He was 15 years old. I begged them not to take him, but they were in and out and gone with him. When I got home, it was too late to do anything."

Lucas regains her composure. "They didn't take me to jail. They took me to what I call the 'Loony Bin' " -- she laughs -- "County Mental Health in Point Loma. I was frantic when they dragged me in there. I wanted my dog worse than...you know, it reminded me of women having their children torn out of their arms in [Nazi] Germany."

Lucas's behavior has gotten her into trouble more than once. "When I hung up, I expected to hear from the doctor. I went in the kitchen just shocked that he would have this woman call me. I've never been able to find out who she is, and they won't tell me. They called the police on me another time too. I was trying to locate my old doctor there, and they told me that he no longer practiced there and left no forwarding address. Well, I said, 'That's not possible.' After going this way and that way, she said, 'We can't release his address.' So I told her that I needed to talk to a doctor that I have some rapport with. She said that she thought he might be with a hospice in the area, and I told her, 'Under the circumstances that might be coming in handy.' And, my God, here come the police again! It's just outrageous!"

Regardless of her humor, finding out she had terminal cancer was a shock for Lucas. "My dog died right then too. I was pretty torn up, but, you know, there are worse things that can happen to you." Her voice begins to break. "All my friends here have died."

Her advice to young people thinking about smoking is simple: "Don't. After I was diagnosed with my 'blob,' I found out that my respiratory capacity was only half. I have COPD, which is 'chronic, obstructive pulmonary' something or other. Don't smoke. If you stop, you'll gain a little weight, but it goes away.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Sponsor Partners

More from SDReader

More from the web

Comments

Sign in to comment

Join our
newsletter list

Enter to win $25 at Broken Yolk Cafe

Each newsletter subscription
means another chance to win!

Close