Today marks seventeen years since I last smoked a cigarette. Seventeen years. That’s a long time. There are still times when I think about it; I would be lying if I told you that I never think about it. Then I have a flash of the following run through my head – why I quit:
- my kids
- my paternal grandmother (she died of lung cancer in 1999, shortly after I quit smoking)
- how one puff will erase all of those years of my not smoking
I often referred to these facts to help get me through the tough spots:
- 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure will drop.
- 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood falls to normal.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation and lung function improve.
- 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath are reduced.
- 1 year after quitting: Your risk of coronary heart disease is reduced to half of what it was when you smoked.
- 5 years after quitting: Your risk of stroke is the same as if you had never smoked.
- 10 years after quitting: Your chances of dying from lung cancer are now half of what it would have been had you continued to smoke. Your risk of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas has also decreased.
- 15 years after quitting: Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as if you’d never smoked. <—-THIS IS ME NOW!!!
I thank God for that day in spring of 1999 when I went to see my gynecologist and she recommended I try Zyban to quit smoking. I wasn’t sure I was really ready. I had been “ready” before, but I think that I really just wanted to satisfy those who wanted me to quit. Along with my doctor giving me some hard facts, my grandmother was dying of lung cancer and would pass away shortly after I quit. I took this as a huge sign that I needed to give quitting smoking everything that I had.
It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I remember smoking that last cigarette down as far as I could. I had started taking the Zyban a week or so before I quit, so that it would be in my system. It definitely helped with the cravings for nicotine, but I had to really work on changing my habits. I would drive a different route to work; follow a different routine for after meals, when I most wanted to smoke.
A lot has changed since that day in July 1999. I could write a book about all of the things that have happened, but I want to highlight those that have to do with my health and well being.
- I got married to the man of my dreams.
- I gave birth to our daughter, Hannah.
- I watched our son, Jon, graduate from high school and head off to college.
- I went gluten-free and dairy-free.
- I joined a gym and fell in love with strength training.
- I discovered my love of running.
- I have run 17+ half marathons, 2 full marathons, and numerous 5K and 10K races.
- I became a personal trainer and strive to help other women realize their health and fitness goals.
Many of the above may not have been possible had I not quit smoking.
My friend, Laurie, and me after a July 4th 5K race.
Life is short. If you are a smoker, no one can make you quit, you have to want it. You have to want to be free from those chains and reach out for help. Help comes in many shapes and sizes and what works for one person may not work for another. Find what works for you. Have faith. Know that it won’t be easy, but I promise it will be worth it.