Bryan Lee Curtis, then 33, holds son Bryan Jr., 2, in this March 29 photo. Curtis would die about two months later.
Here is a tragic story I copied from http://rokok-tobacco.blogspot.com.
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Bryan started when he was just 13, building up to more than two packs a day. He talked about quitting from time to time, but never seriously tried.
Plenty of time for that, he figured. Older people got cancer. Not people in their 30s, not people who worked in construction, as a roofer, as a mechanic.
He had no health insurance. But he was more worried about his mother, 57, who had smoked since she was 25.
"He would say, "Mom, don't worry about me. Worry about yourself. I'm healthy,' " Louise Curtis remembers. "You think this would happen later, when you're 60 or 70 years old, not when you're his age."
He knew, only a few days after he went to the hospital on April 2 with severe abdominal pain, how wrong he had been. He had oat cell lung cancer that had spread to his liver. He probably had not had it long. Also called small cell lung cancer, it's an aggressive killer that usually claims the lives of its victims within a few months.
While it seems unusual to the Curtis family, Dr. Jeffrey Paonessa, Bryan's oncologist, said he is seeing more lung cancer in young adults.
"We've seen lung cancer earlier and earlier because people are starting to smoke earlier and earlier," Paonessa said. Chemotherapy sometimes slows the process, but had little effect in Bryan's case, he said.
Bryan also knew, a few days after the diagnosis, that he wanted somehow to try to save at least one kid from the same fate. He sat down and talked with Bryan Jr. and his 9-year-old daughter, Amber, who already had been caught once with a cigarette. But he wanted to do more. Somehow, he had to get his story out.
When he still had some strength to leave the house, kids would stare.
"They'd come up and look at him because he looked so strange," Louise Curtis said. "He'd look at them and say, "This is what happens to you when you smoke.'
"The kids would say, "Oh, man. I can't believe it,' " Louise Curtis said.
In the last few weeks, Bryan's mother has been the agent for his mission to accomplish some good with the tragedy. She has called newspapers and radio and television stations, seeking someone willing to tell her son's story, willing to help give him the one thing he wanted before he died. Bryan never got to tell his story to the public. He spoke for the last time an hour before a visit from a Times reporter and photographer.
"I'm too skinny. I can't fight anymore," he whispered to his mother at 9 a.m. June 3. He died that day at 11:56 a.m., just nine weeks after the diagnosis.
Bryan Lee Curtis Sr. was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in St. Petersburg on June 8, a rare cloudy day that threatened rain.
At the funeral service at nearby Blount, Curry and Roel Funeral Home, Bryan's casket was open and 50 friends and relatives could see the devastating effects of the cancer.
Addiction is more powerful.
As the graveside ritual ended, a handful of relatives backed away from the gathering, pulled out packs of cigarettes and lit up.