I started smoking at age 18. My dad was a smoker, and he quit so that none of his kids would smoke, but everybody in the family smoked anyway. We were on our own to decide when to quit. There were seven of us, and I was the sixth one to quit. I just got to a point where I thought, “There has got to be something better than this.”
I originally learned about the opportunity to have a lung cancer screening from my family doctor, Jeremy Pripstein, at my annual physical. He explained that the government had a program for a free screening for people who had smoked for a long time.
In my role as lung cancer screening coordinator at Rush, I have the pleasure of working on a program that has the ability to save lives by identifying lung cancer that otherwise would go undetected.
In doing so, I hope to spare my patients and their families the sadness and grief one experiences when diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. I know and understand lung cancer on a very personal level.
To understand my relationship with this disease, one has to learn a bit more about me. Here is my story.
I always wanted to be a nurse. When I graduated from high school, my family encouraged me to focus my career on business. I held positions in advertising and marketing. Looking back, I was always restless and never quite satisfied with my work.
‘Love, laughter, tears’
Fast forward many years to helping my mother, a widowed lifelong smoker, who recently downsized to a senior apartment. Tired and blaming the move for her unsteady gait, in the back of my mind, I wondered if she might have a brain tumor because of lung cancer. My worst fears came true when a few weeks later she was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer that already spread to her brain.
I loved smoking. I loved the smell of the box of cigarettes in my purse. I loved lighting cigarettes. I loved holding cigarettes. I loved the assumed friendships you’d make with other smokers as we huddled outside restaurants during Chicago winters and complained about being “second-class citizens.” I did not want to quit for all these reasons and many more.
I quit smoking just more than one year ago: November 1, 2009. It’s an important day for me. I remember my last cigarette very clearly. I was driving back from spending Halloween with friends in Iowa. I lit the cigarette, took a few puffs and then tossed it out the window and thought, “I’m done.” I had spent the night before smoking outside in the cold alone and making peace with the idea of being done.
I wanted to quit because I did not love the smell of smoke on my coat or in my car. I did not love being sick all winter. I did not love the idea of being an adult who smoked. I did not love the fact that something was stronger than me.
Many attempts to quit smoking during the course of my life had been made. I tried in college. I tried after college. I tried using medications. I tried cutting back and being a “social smoker.” When Rush went smoke-free in 2008, I tried the free classes it had for employees. Each attempt would be initially successful but I always got in my own way. Continue reading →
Have you resolved to quit smoking for good in the new year? Here are some tips to help you get started from Carol Southard, RN, a tobacco treatment specialist at the Prevention Center at Rush University Medical Center.
1. The vast majority of people who smoke wish they didn’t, but have great difficulty stopping on their own. Being in a structured smoking cessation program can teach you how and greatly increase the chances of permanent success.
“All smokers have been told often by loved ones to quit smoking because it is bad for their health; however, no one really tells you how to quit,” says Carol Southard, RN, tobacco treatment specialist at Rush.
2. List at least one personal reason for quitting in addition to you health. For example: Think of all the money you are spending on cigarettes or how it makes your clothes or house smell bad.
3. Rank your cigarettes. Making a list of all the places and situations in which you smoke will help you eliminate smoking from your daily routine.
4. There is nothing wrong with using nicotine replacement products to help with withdrawal symptoms.
5. Set a quit date.
6. Understand and never forget that withdrawal symptoms are temporary.
7. When the urge to smoke hits, take deep breaths slowly and deeply. The urge to smoke only lasts a few minutes and will pass.
8. Drink lots of water and juices to help cleanse your body of nicotine.
9. Keep your hands and mind busy. Work on a crossword puzzle, knit a sweater or fix something around your house.
10. Pat yourself of the back. Be proud of yourself. You deserve it.