A pipe’s cruel legacy

Grandpa loved his pipe. Though it smelt like tomcat piss Sir Water Raleigh was his weed of choice.  Grandpa was a professor and loved to smoke in the privacy of his study while he read, researched and thought great thoughts, mostly early in the mornings along with coffee.

Seduced by the euphoric powers of his pipe Grandpa continued to smoke until the day his dental hygienist noticed something sinister in the back of his mouth. That very afternoon sitting in a specialists’ observation chair a large chunk of flesh, including that little flapper that hangs from the top, was whisked into a specimen jar. The first instalment of smoking’s cruel legacy had arrived. 

I suspect the pipe wasn’t the only culprit. As a child, Grandpa was subjected to relentless second-hand smoke.  In the house and in the car both his parents constantly smoked cigarettes with windows and doors firmly shut. It was cool to smoke back then and very little was known about the risks.

The second instalment came a few years later when cancer appeared on the roof of his mouth. This required a gruesome operation requiring a flap (including an artery) taken from his forearm and grafted into his mouth.

To this day, 12 years after he quit cold-turkey, Grandpa still loves the smell of a smoking deck. Amazing modern medicine and fierce determination to stay away from his pipe has kept him alive. Sadly this was not the case for his younger sister who chose to smoke herself to a torturous death in her early sixties, much to the frustration and anguish of loving daughters, grandchildren and husband.


The third instalment arrived a few days ago when Grandpa had a large tumour scraped out of his bladder. It was an intricate, delicate procedure that involved breaking down the tumour and bringing it out via that tiny tunnel through the penis.

The results arrived late on Monday. The good doctor called that evening after he had the chance to review them. In summary, the tumour removed from the bladder is one of a diverse group of cancers, and it is invasive.  Chemotherapy and maybe radiation will be required. It was not clear whether the cancer had invaded muscle in the bladder. That would be bad.

The doctor wants to research the results further and discuss them with his oncology colleagues. He will get back to us as soon as possible.

Grandpa is a much loved man. Not only by his immediate family, but by pretty much everyone who knows him.  His family will support him through this. He gives us strength and courage. His interpretation of the news is that it’s not negative, it’s cloudy.  So on we go, doing the things we do, shuffling our priorities to account for this new information.

Published by julzlovell

Researcher, Educator, Planet Lover, Grandmother who accepts the science of climate change. Drawing on life experiences and a background in Economics and Geography to share my opinions, stories, follies, gratitude and hope.

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