Gillian Wright (48), from Belfast, is a carer for her husband as he goes through treatment for bowel cancer. She stopped smoking over three months ago with the help of a Cancer Focus NI stop smoking specialist.
“I’d been smoking since I was 12 years old. I started because that’s what my friends were doing. Back then you could buy cigarettes in singles and we used to pool our money to buy a packet. I had an ashtray and cigarette on my desk at work. At my worst I was probably smoking 20 or more a day.
My husband stopped smoking 10 years ago. I felt bad because he was able to stop and I was nipping out the back door for a smoke. He asked me all the time to stop but it was only when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer that I decided it was time. He had surgery followed by chemotherapy. It seemed terrible to be visiting him in hospital and taking him to appointments while I was continuing to smoke.
That was my main motivation for giving up but my health wasn’t good either. I was getting short of breath all the time, particularly going up stairs. I had a continuous cough and always seemed to be run down with cold sores. I had chest problems and went to hospital for a treadmill test. After four minutes walking they had to physically help me off the machine, lie me down and give me water. That was scary.
Plus the price of cigarettes – that was a major factor.
I’d tried five or six times to quite before. The longest I ever went was three months but went back on them when I began putting on weight. Now I go to Slimming World and that seems to be working for me.
I think getting help is so important – the Cancer Focus NI specialist is fantastic encouraging and supporting you and giving you hints and tips that you wouldn’t have thought of.
A big part of stopping is about breaking your old habits. Ninety per cent of the time I smoked in the car. The Cancer Focus NI stop smoking specialist kick started me by giving me a smoke free sticker for my car. Since then I haven’t looked back.
I actually didn’t find it hard. I used Champix to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms from the nicotine. I found the carbon monoxide monitor a good incentive too. When I was first tested the reading was 7.1%. I was striving each week to get it down to zero and keep it there.
I downloaded a stop smoking App on my phone, too, which is really useful. It gives you all sorts of information such as how much money you’re saving, how many cigarettes you’ve avoided, reminding you of the health benefits, and you can play games, which keeps your hands occupied instead of holding a cigarette.
You’re also advised to take up a new hobby to distract yourself and I’ve got into crafting and sewing in a big way, which I love. I feel so much better already, not as run down, my appetite is better and I’m eating more healthily, I go out walking and do up to 10,000 steps a day – that’s a major change. Generally I have the energy to do more.”