Friday, 19 June 2009

Quit 'n' Run

Yesterday, I was interviewed by the Solihull Care Trust 'Stop Smoking' service, for a local newspaper. I quit smoking nearly 5 years ago after using this wonderful service. I would like to share with you my story of how quitting led to running....

I smoked my first cigarette at the age of 12. By 14, I was smoking 10 a day and by 16, around 15-20.

I've lost count of the number of times I tried to quit during 3 decades of cigarette addiction. Willpower was non-existent. I chewed nicotine gum so vigorously I pulled out 2 fillings. The patches didn't work .... I'd take a patch off to have a cigarette, then replace the patch! I even tried acupuncture, and was cured for precisely 15 minutes.

In 2004, after visiting the local GP surgery for various health problems: regular bouts of bronchitis, breathlessness, high blood pressure and a racing heartbeat, my doctor scribbled down a telephone number and said, "I really think you ought to give up smoking... you can get help from the Solihull smoking cessation service" Sighing, I thought, "no chance" though I did keep the number.

Three months later something amazing happened. I fell in love! I'd been divorced for 9 years and after a subsequent disastrous relationship, it was like a bolt from the blue! From the day I met Trevor, I wanted to spend a long and healthy life with him. (He had given up smoking 6 months prior to meeting me.)

I retrieved that telephone number of what is now called the 'Solihull Care Trust Stop Smoking Service' and made an appointment. My advisor, Dawn, tested my carbon monoxide levels which indicated that I was a heavy smoker. She went through the list of chemicals that I had been inhaling for last 30 years. There are around 4000, with at least 43 that can cause cancer. Embalming fluid, petrol additives, toilet cleaner and rat poison are amongst some of the chemicals. I felt sick with disgust and shame.

We set a 'quit' date for around the end of July, though I actually smoked my last cigarette on 15th July 2004, my son's 16th birthday.

Dawn was brilliant and so encouraging! I went to see her fortnightly, and did not dare smoke, because I knew it would show up on the carbon monoxide test. I had hoped that my breathlessness would ease off after a few weeks. This is no word of a lie - it eased off after just one day!

In early 2005, Trevor and I started some gentle jogging to keep fit and reduce a little middle-aged spread. Little did we know then that we would end up running the London Marathon in 2009. I can hardly believe it now... we actually ran 26 miles, which would have been completely unachievable if we were still smokers!

Now approaching my 5th anniversary as a non-smoker, I give my heartfelt thanks to Dawn and the Solihull Care Trust Stop Smoking Service.

It goes to prove that some actions that feel beyond our capabilities ARE possible. It just takes a little focus and determination to quit and run.

By the way, Trevor and I got married on 14th October 2006.