Stories of Hope
Committing To Quit
Article date: May 1, 2001
Mom, I do not want you to die.
Mom, I do not want you to die." Her daughter Michelle's plea was an emotional wake-up call for Stephanie Robinson. Hearing her Michelle express her deepest fears confirmed what Stephanie knew in the back of her mind: this horrible habit had a profound effect on her family.
"I am worried Michelle will pick up my bad habit," Stephanie admits. "If I can prove to her in front of her peers that I can quit, then maybe she will never think of smoking." And, hopefully, Stephanie can reassure Michelle that she wants to live a long and healthy life. Stephanie has tried to give up cigarettes six times before but she has not been successful. She started smoking with friends at age 13 and has smoked for the past 19 years.
"I smoke about half a pack a day," Stephanie reflects. "Even though I work in a smoke-free environment, I still find time to go outside during the day to light up." Michelle is not the only one feeling the effects of Stephanie's smoking. More and more, Stephanie has earaches, colds, and shortness of breath. "I don't want to be run down. I have two children and a full time job as a bank teller. I can't afford to be sick," Stephanie says. Many smokers are unaware how large a toll smoking takes on their health. Tobacco use is associated with cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, uterine cervix, kidney, and bladder. Smoking also plays a part in causing heart disease, and other conditions ranging from colds and gastric ulcers to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and cerebrovascular disease.
"When my doctor warned me about all of the risks associated with smoking, I realized Michelle was right. I need to quit before it is too late," Stephanie explains. Stephanie set a goal for herself. She planned to quit smoking on November 16, 2000-the day of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. More people quit smoking during the Great American Smokeout than on any other day of the year. Last month, Plymouth Middle School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the school Michelle attends, hosted a "Countdown to the Great American Smokeout" event. Stephanie made her commitment public by signing a pledge card in front of students, teachers, and other parents. Stephanie knows quitting will not be easy. She is using a nicotine replacement therapy as an alternative to quitting "cold turkey" in hopes this will be her last and successful attempt to quit. Stephanie has prepared herself by learning as much as she can from the American Cancer Society. She knows she may experience the immediate effects of tobacco withdrawal such as irritability, restlessness, depression, light-headedness, disturbed sleep patterns, anxiety, hunger, and cravings. Unlike the effects of continuing smoking, these withdrawal symptoms will go away in time.
Stephanie will use the following tips from the American Cancer Society:
- For the first few days after quitting, spend as much free time as possible in places where smoking is prohibited (i.e., libraries, museums, theaters, and churches)
- Drink large quantities of water and fruit juice
- Avoid alcohol, coffee, and other beverages associated with smoking
- Stay away from temptation by distancing yourself from situations associated with smoking
- Eat several small meals to maintain blood sugar levels and avoid sugary or spicy foods that trigger a desire for cigarettes
- Take deep rhythmic breaths to help you relax
- Join a support group
Giving up cigarettes is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death in our society, and it is responsible for nearly one of every five deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society salutes Stephanie Robinson and millions like her who participated in the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout.