Dum Spiro Spero - More Than a State Motto

To those of you who have read this already on Facebook or elsewhere, I apologize. It ran in The State newspaper (Columbia, SC) several days ago.

Last month my husband died.

His last few weeks of life gave personal meaning to our state’s motto: “Dum Spiro Spero.” It means “While I breathe, I hope.”

Carroll – more affectionately known as “The Dawg” – was diagnosed with lung cancer on June 1st. He lived only 24 days after that diagnosis.
The Dawg had been short of breath for a while. We thought it could have been due to a little weight gain, getting older, or even his weak aortic valve. All kinds of tests were done.

A June 1st visit with the pulmonologist, though, confirmed our worst fears: The Dawg had Stage 3-B lung cancer. We were told that the average life expectancy from that point was 10 months. “Average” was stressed. The Dawg, as it turned out, was not average.

He was a tall man with broad shoulders and was extremely active his entire life. He was the picture of health and of an energetic lifestyle. An avid sportsman, he had a promising career leading to major league baseball when he chose to serve his country in the military many years ago.

Even with the diagnosis of lung cancer, The Dawg had hope. He hoped to continue for a while in his usual on-the-go lifestyle. The day after his diagnosis, we went to the beach and spent five wonderful days there.
Carroll did not fear cancer. He feared lingering; he feared being dependent; he feared being pitied. As long as he could breathe on his own, though, he had hope. It was his own “Dum Spiro Spero.”

Finally, though, he was put on oxygen 24/7. Ultimately, this proved to be insufficient. He chose not to use a ventilator. Yes, he had hope but only as long as he could do the breathing on his own.
I didn’t know Carroll when he was a smoker, which he apparently had been in his early years. It was that long-ago smoking which crushed his hope and ended his life.

I’ve never really liked being around smoke.
In the 1970s, as a member of the SC House of Representatives, I introduced our state’s first bill to restrict smoking in public buildings. Yet I held out when it came to private buildings. I never wanted the government to intrude too much in private lives or in private businesses.
I’m still not convinced that it is the government’s role to tell people they cannot smoke or to tell private business owners that they must not allow smoking in their establishments.

However, I held a loved one in my arms as he struggled to breathe and as he eventually took his last breath. There is nothing quite like seeing a once-healthy person struggling to breathe and finally giving up the hope of life when he could no longer breathe.
I don’t think anyone could spend the last 24 hours of life with someone who is dying of lung cancer, struggling for breath and still continue to smoke.

Eventually, smoking literally takes one’s breath away.
And when it takes one’s breath away, it also takes away hope.
“Dum Spiro Spero.”


Sandee said...

I smoked for 30 years. I hope I'm going to survive a fate like this.

What a touching tribute to a great man. Your soul mate I can tell. I'm so happy you both could share each other for the short time you had. Cherished time indeed.

I too can't imagine someone still smoking after what you endured. They do though. They just say they can't quit.

Have a terrific day honey. Big hug. :)

The Retired One said...

What a wonderful tribute to your husband.
My mom also died of lung cancer going to a brain tumor.
I know it is probably not the government's role to dictate no smoking, but thank goodness they do..because otherwise it would NOT be adhered to. If THAT saves or prolongs peoples' lives from being away from second hand smoke, it is well worth it.

Brimful Curiosities said...

I've never once held a cigarette or smoked anything. My father has severe asthma so I fully understand and value the ability to breathe normally. I hope my children follow in my footsteps. Also wanted to stop by and tell you that I enjoy your posts very much.

Syd said...

I am glad that you posted this, even though it was probably so painful for you. If it reaches someone and helps them to stop smoking that would be worth it. I personally am glad that there are smoke free ordinances such as Mt. Pleasant. I wish all were.

Anonymous said...

My friend who is older we'll say, went to the Dr. and the Dr. told her that if she was going to get better she was going to "have" to stop smoking. She said "I have never smoked" but my husband does, and I've been married to him for 46 years.

Mommy Grits said...

Tears just streaming down my face. I know the loss of a child,how it feels to watch someone you love wither away, then as swiftly as a candle is blown out - leave this earth. But to have your husband pass away,how painful and I am so, so very saddened for your loss.

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