Letchworth grandmother urges people to quit smoking after cancer diagnosis

Judith Wilkinson, 66, is a grandmother of three, and was recently diagnosed with terminal lung cance

Judith Wilkinson, 66, is a grandmother of three, and was recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer after more than 40 years as a smoker. Judith decided to quit on the day she got the news. Judith is pictured at her home in Letchworth - Credit: Archant

A GRANDMOTHER of three who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer after more than 40 years as a smoker is urging people to quit the habit after being given a six per cent chance of surviving.

Judith Wilkinson, of Rundells, Letchworth GC, decided to quit smoking on the day she was diagnosed.

The 66-year-old said: “My cancer is caused purely by my smoking. I knew I had to stop to give myself the best chance. The NHS is working so hard to help me live for as long as possible and I felt if I carried on smoking, it would be a disservice to the doctors and nurses who are doing so much for me.”

Having once been a 20+ a day smoker, Mrs Wilkinson knows how hard it is to kick the habit.

She once quit smoking for two years, before lapsing back into old ways.

Mrs Wilkinson, who is undergoing chemotherapy, said: “My chances of surviving five years or longer are something like six per cent and I’ve decided that I’m just going to have to be one of those six per cent. My husband and I have bought a new mobile home and we’re going on holidays with our dog, and I’m going to be there as my grandchildren grow up.”

The finance analyst feels it’s important for people to identify their individual triggers that can make quitting so hard.

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“I’d come downstairs each morning, put the kettle on and make a cup of tea, then smoke a cigarette. If the phone rang, it didn’t matter who was calling, I would automatically light up again,” she explained.

“Even once I’d quit, I’d get in my car, start the engine, put my seatbelt on and then I’d look for a cigarette. In my head I’d say to myself, ‘No! You don’t smoke anymore’.”

Mrs Wilkinson, who has now been smoke-free for three months, was recommended to visit Hertfordshire Stop Smoking Service for support, by her GP. “It was so important to know that there was someone supporting me,” she said.

“I was seeing Michelle, my stop smoking advisor, every fortnight. Even now we keep in touch over the phone and I really look forward to my calls with her. Just knowing the clinic was available reinforced my will to break the habit.

“What really matters to me is that whatever happens now, I know that by sharing my story that something good will come from all of this.”

Elizabeth Fisher, health improvement manager at NHS Hertfordshire, said: “Judith’s story is one that many people face every day, and the determination and courage Judith is showing is outstanding. Unfortunately there are many cancers that are caused by smoking and not just cancer of the lungs, mouth or throat.

“The latest TV campaign by the DH shows how healthy body cells easily mutate to become cancerous. Stopping smoking won’t prevent all cancers but it will significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer and other diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema), heart disease and stroke.

“Stopping smoking at any age has health benefits, but the biggest gains are made by stopping before the age of 30 and before thinking about having a baby.”

To get advice or book a one-to-one appointment with trained stop smoking advisors, call the Hertfordshire Stop Smoking Service on 0800 389 3998, email hertfordshire.stopsmokingservice@nhs.net, or visit www.smokefreehertfordshire.nhs.uk

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