Jill Tsang’s stop smoking journey

Belfast mum Jill Tsang (38) stopped smoking on September 23, 2020, with help from the Cancer Focus NI stop smoking service after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. 


Getting cancer was such a shock, I desperately wanted to get healthy again and I knew that stopping smoking was one thing that I could do both for me and for my nine-year-old son Tyler.


I was diagnosed during lockdown on July 23. I’d found a lump between my arm and breast back in March just before Covid hit. At first I thought it was a cyst but by June I realised it was getting bigger and I became concerned. I had my first biopsy at the end of June and was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I had 38 lump nodes removed from under my arm and then started on chemotherapy. 

Stopping Smoking

I decided I couldn’t put my body through anything else. Stopping smoking was one thing I knew I could do to help myself. I’d been having problems speaking for too long because of a shortness of breath. Even as I was going through treatment I felt so much better having stopped.  


I’d been smoking for about 20 years, 10 to 15 cigarettes every day and up to 25 if I was out socially, so I was quite a heavy smoker. I have given up a few times before but always went back to them when something bad happened – it was always stress that made me pick up a cigarette again.   


I knew psychologically I was doing something good by stopping but I’d also promised Tyler for the last year and a half that I’d stop. I agreed I would give him something every time he saw me with cigarette in my hand or even saw them in the house. I thought it was going to cost me a fortune but he didn’t make much out of it as once I stopped I really stuck to it. 

jill tsang and son

Cancer Focus NI Stop Smoking Service

Someone told me about the Cancer Focus NI stop smoking service and I thought I’d give it a go. It’s held remotely rather than face to face because of Covid. I found it really helpful. I had weekly phone calls with a stop smoking specialist for 30 or 40 minutes every Monday.


It was brilliant having someone to keep tabs on me and see how I was doing, to give me encouragement and tips on how to make the break, such as changing my routine. I used to have two cigarettes in the kitchen as soon as I got up each morning. I’ve stopped doing that. I also got the kitchen redecorated and I don’t want to ruin it with smoke.


One of my friends who I’d have video called for a smoke and a chat refuses to do that anymore, which also helped. She’s trying to stop now too.  

I used about two nicotine patches but decided I wanted to go cold turkey. I got a bit moodier and the odd day I thought I could kill for a cigarette but I didn’t give in. I don’t even think about it anymore. 


Find out more about Cancer Focus NI’s Stop Smoking Service

I want to QUIT