Skip to main content

You are here

My mum's cancer made me stop smoking

Judith says she's thankful she gave up when she did.

Judith Windross

I was 14 when I started smoking, and didn't stop until I was 56.

Back then, everybody smoked. It was a peer habit, it was the done thing. I didn't really know or appreciate what it would mean to me and my health in the future.

In my mind I believed I was safe. I'd always thought nobody in my family had been diagnosed with cancer, so I had nothing to worry about. That all changed when I found my mum coughing up blood.

A thunderbolt fired through my mind

I was at her bedside when she was told that she had lung cancer.

A thunderbolt fired through my mind as I realised she used to smoke years before. I made up my mind there and then. Stopping smoking was essential. Hearing that my mum had cancer made me realise that I had to give myself the best chance of staying well.

Some years earlier I had attempted to quit, but that was before you could get effective support. This time, I was determined.

I asked what aids were available and was given counselling to help kick the habit. A little plastic cigarette-type device (a precursor to the e-cig, perhaps) was really helpful for me. It would hit the back of the throat like a real cigarette.

I had nicotine patches too, but mostly used the plastic cigarette. I liked that I could hold it and use it in the same way I had for the last 42 years. It felt just the same. The counsellor told me to always keep one to hand in case I ever got the temptation.

I remember her saying it was like alcohol - just one puff could set off the whole addiction again. She helped me with other practical tips too. I was worried about putting on weight, so she encouraged me to have a hot chocolate instead of a snack if I wanted something sweet.

A new way of thinking

I began to realise that giving up wasn't just about not picking up a cigarette, it required a whole new way of thinking and lifestyle changes.

I was lucky to have the support of my husband along the way. We were going away after Christmas. I decided that would be a good time to give up, as I would be away from the places that I usually smoked. Going out of the back door to smoke became just a natural habit. Being in a different place for the first few days (which are always the worst) really helped me.

So just before we went away, I had my last cigarette - and I've never looked back. The real sense of achievement when I breathed into a carbon monoxide detector and the nurse could tell I hadn't smoked was fantastic. I felt very proud of myself.

Support from Breathe Easy

I was diagnosed with COPD 3 years ago. This was a blow, but I know now that because I no longer smoke there's a good chance I will live for many more years than I would have done otherwise.

I was referred to pulmonary rehabilitation, and one of the nurses there wanted to set up one of the British Lung Foundation's Breathe Easy support groups in the area. She asked if I'd be interested in getting involved and I jumped at the chance for 2 reasons: to help myself get more support and information, and to help other people.

I'm now the chair of the group, and I love the support we give each other. People call me at home and tell me their stories over the phone. The stories can be difficult to listen to sometimes, but it's heartening to know that the group can help them.

A few people have managed to quit smoking themselves since joining the group because of the support and advice we can give them. Nobody ever looks down on or criticises anyone else because we're all been there ourselves. Anyone can come along and be welcomed right away.

I feel up-to-date with everything, and I feel a valued part of the BLF. I'm very thankful for everything everybody does for us, it's never taken for granted.

I wish I could tell my 14 year old self not to start smoking in the first place, but I feel lucky to have been able to give up when I did.

Our stop smoking information can help you give up. And if you're affected by any lung condition, find your local Breathe Easy support group to talk to people like you.


I smoked 45 cigarettes a day for over 45 years. All stopped on 3 Oct 2013 @1025 as I entered local GP surgery for ECG as hadn't been feeling well for a couple days. During ECG had heart attack due clot coming "adrift" and getting stuck. Within an hour I was in Brighton heart unit having stents "fitted". The heart specialist explained that years of heavy smoking had made arteries very stiff making it extremely difficult to insert the stents. Next time he said it might be almost impossible. I promised him I would stop and have not smoked since. I think relief from severe pain as the stents were inflated, and concerns that stents might not be an option in case of re-occurrence provided adequate motivation. Giving up smoking requires 2 actions; finding something to occupying oneself for the first 48 hrs, and persuading the mind you do not want to smoke. Its not easy but if you make an issue of it you are making it more difficult for yourself.
I,also started smoking at 14yrs. It was so glamourised then. When I was 50 my Dad had lung cancer, he smoked. I bought myself a lovely car,which I couldn't afford unless I stopped smoking. My five kids and my parents so enjoyed the days out we had that I just never smoked again,I went from 20 a day to zero and paid for the car. Dad died in a year, but I took him to many places within that year and we spent much precious time together.
You smoked from age 14 to 56 and then stopped because your mother developed lung cancer? My story is almost identical, except that my mother died from a stroke. I smoked (quite heavily) during exactly these years and respiratory problems (COPD) led me to stopping smoking around 5 years ago. I was supported by my GP and underwent 'nicotine withdrawal' with the help of prescription drug 'Champix'. Now, the smell of someone smoking a cigarette turns my stomach. I will never be rid of my COPD lung disease but I am glad t be rid of my smoking habit!
Thank you for posting your story Judith, it helps other people. Although I am not a smoker I was diagnosed with a fibrosis lung condition in my late 30s. Now I'm in my 50s I still have complications but am still able to enjoy life. The support Judith and her BreathEasy group provided while I lived in the area was very much appreciated:)
yes its hard to stop. i have a ecig now which is good. but when i feel low i will turn to the real ones, i feel bad when i do, but peole who have never smoked dont know how hard it is to stop. but there is so many reasons not to, my dad died from copd did not smoke but his lungs where so bad in the end his was work related, but in the end he could not breath and beleive it was hard to watch. but regards smokeing you have to want to stop, and if you keep trying you will one day.
I smoked until my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and given six weeks to live.  I was so shocked that I gave up there and then and went cold turkey - I was suffering from so much grief that I didn't seem to notice the cravings.  That was 14 years ago and I haven't had one since.  I crave now and then but I know that having watch my mother die so horribly, gasping for breath I will never touch one again in my life.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
24 August 2015