I was a runner at school, but when I got to university, all that went out of the window. Somewhere along the way, I started smoking, despite previously being very anti-smoking, and before I knew it, I had a 20-a-day habit.
Over the next 30 years, I tried several ways to give up with limited success. I did manage to reduce the amount I smoked daily but could never seem to take that final step.
Things came to a head health-wise in June last year when I was diagnosed with a case of Bell’s Palsy and High Blood pressure. I was finally scared enough to do something about my health, getting off the sofa to exercise and following a Mediterranean-style diet.
Over the next 5 months, I lost 4 stone and walked 2,700 kilometres, but the one thing I couldn’t do was stop reaching for a smoke after every walk.
I started running again in October last year and did Park Run in November with my daughter. Even then, I’d get home and reach for the packet of cigarettes!!
As I got closer to the anniversary of my health scare, I decided that I’d try to do something I’d done many years ago, which was to run Yorkshire’s Three Peaks. It’s a demanding walk, but running is a whole different game.
I’d been thinking about stopping since that health scare but hadn’t found my reason to stop; this challenge was just what I needed.
I’d read that there was an NHS service to support stopping smoking, so during my annual checkup, I asked about it. I think the GP was a little sceptical but referred me to the service anyhow.
That’s where I met Fazila. She explained how the service could help, arranged regular calls to monitor progress, and prescribed a couple of weeks of patches based on her assessment.
I got rid of my remaining cigarettes and started using the patches. Honestly, that was harder than losing four stones. I was so used to going outside for a smoke that I would find myself outside without a smoke!
Over the next couple of weeks, that urge reduced a lot. The regular calls helped massively, knowing someone else was there to talk to.
At the end of July, I walked the Three Peaks; it was at this point I felt confident enough to stop using the patches. I was finally free from the Nicotine!!
I continued with the running and, at the beginning of September, achieved my goal of running the three peaks.
Getting here has been an interesting journey, but it’s far from over. Quitting smoking, losing weight and taking better care of myself has given me a better quality of life. It’s also allowed me to set new goals, the next being to run the Leeds Marathon with my daughter next May.
This week I did the Carbon Monoxide measurement; my reading was two parts per million (or, in normal speak – the same as a non-smoker)