"I’m not going to be running a marathon any time soon but at least I can walk to the shops and back"
Joan Phillips from Throckley, said: “I started smoking in my early 20s and smoked for over 50 years. I think it was down to peer pressure at first really, cigarettes were everywhere and there were no health warnings back then. Once you were hooked, you were hooked.
“I didn’t start thinking about my health until years later. Anything health related, I didn’t link to smoking – I didn’t want to admit to myself that smoking could be causing the problem. In the last eight years or so, my breathing became a real issue. I found that I couldn’t exercise as before and everyday tasks became much more difficult.
“Eventually I went to the hospital to have an X-ray, which showed the damage to my lungs. The doctor I saw was amazing and encouraged me to stop smoking, so that things wouldn’t get worse.
“It was the wakeup call I needed to stop. I had four cigarettes left in the packet and they lasted me that final 24 hours. That was two years ago. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I have an e-cigarette in my house and I know it’s there if I need it.
“It’s hard to put into words the difference in my breathing since I stopped smoking. When I smoked, I would have a morning shower, then I’d have to sit down to have a rest. When I was getting dressed, I had to stop. I couldn’t even change the bed sheets, clean the house or hoover without pausing constantly because I was so breathless. I couldn’t walk very far or just get on and do things. Within a month of stopping smoking, I had noticed a big difference.
“Getting the COPD diagnosis was a shock and at first I was devastated. I thought that was it – my life was finished. If I had carried on smoking, I was told it wouldn’t have taken long before I needed oxygen. I didn’t want that. I did my research and knew I needed to stop. My lungs aren’t going to get better, but because I have stopped smoking, they aren’t getting worse.
“My children – I have a son and a daughter – have been a great help. They mean the world to me. I also have two grandsons and I want to be around to see them growing up. My family are so pleased I have stopped smoking as they were very worried when I was diagnosed with COPD.
“I’m not going to be running a marathon any time soon but at least I can walk to the shops and back, which at my age is mainly what I want to do. I joined an exercise class at Westerhope Community Centre for people with similar conditions and it has helped me hugely. I have also saved so much money since quitting.
“When I see young people smoking it upsets me. Everyone thinks ‘it won’t happen to me’, but I wish I could say to them don’t do it – I thought the same and look at what happened to me.
“My message to anyone who smokes is to stop – you have to just try and stop. I know it sounds easy to say and it’s not easy to do. But if I can do it after smoking for over 50 years, anyone can. Cutting down doesn’t work. You can go from 20 cigarettes a day to five, but you’ll soon be back up to 20 again. The only way is to stop.“