Shane began smoking at age 18, something every member of his family already did. He was only 34 when the damage to his body from smoking became evident. He noticed he was having difficulty swallowing; throat cancer turned out to be the cause. During the surgeries that followed, doctors removed his larynx, part of his esophagus, and collarbone and then reshaped and stretched his stomach to serve as an esophagus. He also has a 1-inch stoma (opening) in his neck so he can breathe.
"I tried several times to quit smoking and thought it was impossible," says Shane with the aid of an electrolarynx, a device he presses against his neck so he can talk. "But after the surgery, I've had no desire to smoke."
That was in 2003, and he has been smoke-free ever since. Even so, smoking will continue to affect him for the rest of his life. Having a stoma caused his day-to-day routine to change dramatically. He had to give up his work as a machinist, and even simple things, like taking a shower, can be dangerous. Now, at age 44, he faces a new challenge. His doctors recently found cancer in his chest.
Shane hopes that by participating in the Tips From Former Smokers campaign, he can show others that while smoking may not kill you right away, a person would be foolish to think that smoking won't affect him or her eventually.
"You know how dangerous smoking is," Shane says. "Age makes no difference. It will catch up to you."
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- CDC/Office on Smoking and Health
4770 Buford Highway
Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3717