I started smoking when I was twelve or thirteen and I smoked for forty years. I can honestly say I enjoyed every cigarette. Despite smoking, I lived a very active lifestyle and participated in various sports always celebrating a victory (or loss) with a cigarette and a drink or two.
Throughout my forty years of smoking I tried to quit many times. It never lasted because I enjoyed smoking too much and, of course, didn’t realise the damage I was doing to my body. With hindsight, if I knew then what I know now about the damage smoking can do your body, I probably wouldn’t have smoked at all.
My body started to give up on me one day in 1993 when I was 51 years old. I collapsed whilst playing squash and quickly learned that I needed an aortic valve replacement.
To prepare for the surgery I was supposed to quit smoking. Like my previous attempts to stop I wasn’t doing very well until one day, I was on the phone to my daughter, she heard me puffing on a cigarette and reprimanded me saying, “Dad you need to get ready for the operation! This is serious!” I quit out of guilt but in the back of my mind I was looking forward to smoking again after the operation.
4-6 weeks later I went under the knife and came out the other end in good health. It was then that I decided I would never smoke again out of respect for my body and for the doctors who had worked so hard to save my life.
Since quitting, it hasn’t been a bed of roses, but my body has been able to fight a battle with Lymphoma and pull through a second open heart operation. I am 100 per cent sure my decision not to smoke helped me make it through each time. As a result of not smoking, my body is much healthier and able to cope and recover better.
I am pleased to report I am currently 73 years old and living an active, happy life at the Gold Coast. I have been diagnosed with COPD but I attend Pulmonary Rehab classes to help me learn how to breathe properly and keep me moving.
My advice to anyone who is thinking of quitting is – don’t mess around. Just go for it. You may feel invincible when you are young but as you get older a healthy body helps fight off diseases that might catch up with you.