Smokeout stirs memories of dying grandmother

November 15, 2001|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

Watching someone you love die because the person has lung cancer is not cool.

Ask Ana Lilia Barraza of El Centro what it was like to sit by the bed of her dying grandmother and watch her, slowly and painfully, slip away from the family who loved her so much.

Today is the day each year when, coast to coast, some 10 million Americans participate in the Great American Smokeout by smoking less or quitting, so it's a day close to Barraza's heart.

Sitting in her office in downtown El Centro on Wednesday, Barraza tells a story of a woman who battled breast cancer and beat it, only to succumb to lung cancer.


"My grandmother was always very active, very spirited " Barraza said with a smile. "But then she got sick with emphysema … and then she was diagnosed with lung cancer about six months before she died."

Her grandmother, Guadalupe Salas, had been a cigarette smoker since age 20.

In March, American Cancer Society advocacy volunteer Norma Galindo of Holtville presented Barraza's story and others like it to legislators in Sacramento in an attempt to have lawmakers better understand the toll on families caused by tobacco-related diseases.

When asked why she had been prepared to share the pain of losing her grandmother with strangers, Barraza sighed and said, "Because it's such an awful way to die and it is entirely preventable."

Barraza went on to add "lawmakers need to be thinking about these things and allocating more money for research. I don't think there's enough money going into research at the moment."

The American Cancer Society launched the first smokeout 25 years ago.

Phil Shirey, director of Pioneers Health Center and a board member of the local American Cancer Society, says the smokeout focus has changed over the years and now primarily targets young people.

"We know that if someone does not begin smoking at a young age, chances are very, very low that they'll ever start. Most start as teen-agers; very few people start later in life."

Shirey went on to say that the smokeout is a great way to have a go at quitting cigarettes..

"You just have to try it for one day. If you can do it for one day, you can do it for two days … then you can go for a week, for a month."

The ACS has put together a Great American Smokeout survival kit and it is available free at the society's office at 400 S. 8th St. in El Centro.

You also can pick one up at the following locations:

· El Centro Regional Medical Center

· El Centro Chamber of Commerce

· Imperial County Public Health Department

· Alford Distributing

· American Lung Association

· Wal-Mart pharmacy

· Naval Air Facility El Centro branch medical clinic

· Imperial City Hall

· Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo

· Brawley Chamber of Commerce

· Pioneers Memorial Hospital

For more information you can call the American Cancer Society at 352-6656 or visit its Web site at

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337- 3442 or

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