Asaad M. and Leah M.’s Story

By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Leah, age 52, started smoking menthol cigarettes when she was a teenager. She continued to smoke on and off into adulthood, sometimes smoking more heavily when she felt stressed.

Leah was 45 years old when she started having stomach pain and losing weight. She was a single parent with one income and no health insurance, and she worried that she couldn’t afford to be sick. But when the pain became unbearable, Leah had to get medical help. That’s when she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer from smoking.

Leah’s son, Asaad, was 19 years old at the time. His young life was just beginning, but he immediately put everything on hold to become Leah’s full-time caregiver. He quickly learned how to grocery shop and cook meals, manage a household budget, schedule doctors’ appointments, and keep his mother’s spirits up. For Asaad, choosing to care for Leah was simple.  “This is the person who brought me into the world, so I stand by her,” Asaad said. “Being there – that’s what a son is.”

Leah’s cancer progressed to Stage 4 as it spread to her lungs, and in 2016, she had a tumor removed from her left lung. She also quit smoking for good after several attempts. After seeing the harmful effects cigarettes had on Leah, Asaad is proud of his mother for quitting. Now 25 years old, Asaad is certain he’ll never start smoking.