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Regrets of a smoker

“The diagnosis of cancer and the soccer World Cup inspired me to stop smoking, otherwise I would be dead by now,” recalls Mkefa. “The reward of watching the World Cup was for me to stop smoking.”

Mfeka said that World No Tobacco Day was significant and that it should serve as a reminder that people had to look after their health - it is also an opportunity for him to tell people how he says he wasted 32 years of his life due to tobacco use.

A Soweto resident, 57-year-old Mkefa is now unemployed and classified as disabled due to the throat cancer he sustained from smoking. Mkefa says he smoked because of peer pressure, and started out experimenting not knowing that he was going to be addicted. “I started to smoke when I was 22 years old and stopped at 54.”

Mkefa started as a moderate smoker but as he grew older, he found himself smoking more. “I smoked 15 cigarettes a day and I was still not satisfied, it was an unstoppable impulse.”

In 2008 he developed repetitive bouts of flu, a hoarse voice and a chronic cough. He went to the Orlando Clinic where he was misdiagnosed with bronchitis. After one of his numerous clinic visits, with still with no improvement, he picked up a magazine in a taxi which had information about smoking and cancer. He recognised several of his symptoms. “God was in my favour that day, the article said the reward for smoking was cancer.”

The following day Mkefa returned to the clinic and told the nurses that he suspected he had cancer. He was immediately referred to the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital where a biopsy confirmed stage two cancer of the larynx. By this time Mkefa had lost his voice and it would be a year before he could speak again.

His initial response to the diagnosis was regret for smoking, shock and fright. “I had friends who died from smoking and I thought I was next.”
“If it wasn’t for the cancer, I wouldn’t have stopped. It was not easy because I was addicted.”

After seven weeks of radiation therapy Mkefa was finally declared cancer free in September 2009. “It was victory for me, a major victory!”

Mkefa believes that if global leaders increased tobacco taxes, tobacco use would decrease. “Tobacco is illegal to any person’s health, you won’t know it until it hits you.” he says. “I believe thay when you buy that packet of cigarettes, you are buying cancer.”

Source: Health-e News , By Dipuo Sedibe

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