I once heard a geneticist claim that the changes to genes induced by smoking have been traced forward for three generations.
So as I approach 60, an auspicious age at which many loved ones have died, this NY Times article came as a reminder that some things are simply more powerful than what we eat.
In North Carolina, where I grew up, tobacco was king. Pall Malls in every pocket; ladies with Jackie Kennedy dos riding in their convertibles, scarves and ashes blowing in the wind.
My mom started smoking in adolescence, one of those time periods when genes are particularly susceptible. She died of lung cancer at age 60. Her parents, both smokers, died of cancer around that same magic age.
I was diagnosed in my late 30s–fortunately, with a slow-growing form of cancer–and a year later, gave birth to a daughter with a broken chromosome. She spent the bulk of her second day of life in open heart surgery, her first two months on a respirator.
As I shuffled back and from the hospital room in which my mom was dying and the intensive care bed where my Caroline was struggling to survive, I cringed every time I passed the sign that greeted the ICU entrance: funded by RJ Reynolds.
So I should thank you, Reynolds Tobacco? 12 years a slave, 3 generations and counting a victim…