I Quit! A Decision to Stop Smoking
A Decision to Stop Smoking Saved a Life
When Yvette Garity of Edgewater tried to quit her 42-year, pack-a-day smoking habit, she soon realized she couldn?t do it on her own. It was a realization that had a more profound effect than she anticipated.
“I had worked my way down to two cigarettes a day, but then it was up to three, then four and finally I said to my husband, ‘I need help,’” admitted the 59-year-old state administrative associate and mother of five grown children.
She found the help she needed from Anne Arundel Medical Center’s free Smoking Cessation class and quit four days into the six-week class. That “help” was more than she bargained for, when a “graduation gift” of free lung X-ray revealed a stage 1 tumor.
“I had no symptoms,” she said. “In fact, my breathing ability was almost normal.”
Three days after the discovery, she met with AAMC thoracic surgeon Karl Holschuh, M.D. Twenty-two days later, the tumor was removed.
“Ms. Garity’s prognosis is very good because her cancer was discovered early,” Dr. Holschuh said. “She has stage one lung cancer, which statistically carries a five-year survival rate of 70 percent. Her chance for cure was immeasurably improved by the chance discovery of her tumor.”
Dr. Holschuh added that he believes AAMC’s interdisciplinary approach to the treatment of cancer is essential in having a positive outcome. “By bringing a team of clinical experts together, we not only help with smoking cessation, we also offer treatment and follow up monitoring if need,” he said. “But quitting smoking is a crucial first step if someone truly wants a healthy lifestyle.”
A month out of surgery, Ms. Garity has a new appreciation for life. “I will not have to suffer from emphysema. I can smell and taste things better. And I just celebrated my birthday. I feel very, very blessed,” she said.
The only vestige of her life-long smoking habit is that she can’t stop talking about the AAMC Smoking Cessation class that saved her life. She’s telling her friends and colleagues who smoke and has even volunteered to be an inspirational speaker at the next Smoking Cessation class.
How you can help prevent lung cancer
“My goal is to get someone else to quit,” she said.
“It’s very hard,” she said. “Unless you are determined, it’s not going to happen. When I first started, I was dreaming that I was smoking with my mother, who has been gone for quite some time. The dream was so vivid, when I woke up I could still smell the smoke.”
The most difficult part of quitting smoking is behavior modification, Ms. Garity said. During the class, she was taught to make sure she had something to do after every meal, a time when she would usually have a cigarette.
“Certain activities or behaviors can trigger a strong desire to smoke, particularly in individuals who have recently stopped smoking,” said Joanne Ebner, R.N, the cancer prevention nurse and nicotine dependence counselor who runs the classes. “Some examples of common triggers are the first morning cigarette and smoking between meals. It is important to plan ahead for these times and to come up with alternative, more healthy behaviors to replace smoking. It is helpful to have a number of strategies in place to avoid the urge to smoke.”
Lunch was the most difficult for Ms. Garity, who would often have a cigarette and read before heading back to work. “Now I walk,” she said. “And you’re taught to reward yourself for making it several days without smoking, so I bought myself a compact disc player to use while I am walking.”
AAMC offers both teen and adult smoking cessation classes, which are held once a week on the second floor of the Sajak Pavilion at the Medical Park campus just east of Annapolis Mall on Jennifer Road. To register for either class, call askAAMC at 443-481-4000 or 800-MD-NURSE. Anyone interested in learning more about thoracic oncology services at AAMC should call 866-BREATHE (273-2843).
From the American Cancer Society
Within 20 minutes of smoking that last cigarette, the body begins a series of changes that continue for years.20 minutes after quitting
From the American Lung Association
Facts about Lung Cancer