A Day in the Life at UNMC

A good day to be a quitter

Today is the 37th annual Great American Smokeout – an event organized by the American Cancer Society that encourages smokers to either quit or make a plan to quit today.

UNMC and The Nebraska Medical Center tout a smoke free campus, and that’s great. While that status may discourage some smokers from lighting up as often or even spur them to quit, the fact is people still choose to smoke.

Smokers often know about the health risks. They know how much it costs. They know about the products available to help them quit.

That’s why today I want to take a different angle on the effect of quitting. The effect on a loved one.

I don’t claim to understand how hard it is to quit; I’ve never smoked. However, someone very close to me did for exactly 20 years: my mom.

Gorgeous, isn’t she? :)

For the first six years of my life, my mom smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. Approximately 30, times 7, equals 210 cigarettes a week. I don’t even want to times that by 52 weeks a year and then 20 years.

In the spring of 1989, she finally decided to quit for good. Like many smokers, she’d tried three of four times before. Once cold turkey and once following a plan, but by herself. Then her workplace offered a group course through the American Lung Association, and it worked.

Since I was so young at the time, my memory isn’t exactly a steel trap. But I will never forget helping my mom rip up her unsmoked cigarettes. I can vividly recall our pale blue trash can filling up with filters and paper and a whole lot of satisfaction.

With quitting came a T-shirt that said “I kicked the habit” surrounded by bunch of cartoon cigarettes being stepped on by a shoe. Here my mom displays hers proudly.

Thankfully, my photography skills have improved. Slightly.

Being 6, I wanted a T-shirt too.

“You were so proud of me,” my mom recalled. “So we went to the mall and had a t-shirt made up for you.”

My shirt consisted of white, iron-on letters and simply said, “My mom quit smoking: May 15, 89.” You’d think I would have been embarrassed to wear this. Maybe at age 13, but certainly not at age 6. I wore that shirt with pride.

“That really helped me….,” my mom said.

But I couldn’t wear it to the Catholic grade school I attended. One day, then Omaha Mayor J.P. Morgan visited our first grade classroom. At the end of his visit, our teacher allowed us to bombard him with questions/comments. I immediately rushed up to the front of the room and blurted out, “My mom quit smoking!” If I remember correctly, the Mayor was quite impressed, even if the side zipper of my jumper was down.

Ahh, memories!

If the examples above weren’t enough to keep my mom going in the early days of quitting, it’s possible that this next one made it all worthwhile. Every night after she would tuck me in and retreat to the living room, I would yell for her. “I love you. And thank you for quitting smoking.”

It’s been 23 years, and I told my mom the same thing yesterday when I interviewed her for this story. I’m just as proud of her today as I was at 6-years-old. And believe me, if I could still fit into that shirt, I would wear it.

If you’re reading this and you’re a smoker, I hope you’ll give some thought to the benefits quitting may have on not just you, but your loved ones. If you’re not a smoker, but have a loved one who smokes, I hope you’ll send this post their way.

For more information on quitting with help from UNMC, contact Tom Klingemann about cessation classes at 559-8757 or Jayme Nekuda about what cessation products are covered under the university insurance plan at 402-559-4340. Addiction specialists also are available through the Faculty/Employee Assistance Program and you can check out this series of posts from UNMC Today.

It’s a great day to be a quitter!

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15 thoughts on “A good day to be a quitter

  • Congratulations to your mom! I’ll never forget how wonderful it was when my dad quit cold turkey at the age of 72. He had been a two pack a day smoker for over 50 years when an unexpected hospital stay for an aortic aneurism forced him to quit. After two weeks in the hospital without a cigarette, he couldn’t believe how much better he felt and never looked back!

  • Congratulations to your mom! Taking your life back and quitting smoking was one of the best things I ever did. I smoked off and on between the end of high school and until I found out I was pregnant. Kicking the habit was a lot easier knowing that I was already reducing the chances of my kids not smoking. My mother was a long time smoker and when she suddenly died from heart failure at the age of 46 it was detected that she had a mild case of emphysema.
    I will never claim it to be an easy thing to do, quitting smoking that is; but I will advocate that it is a much better life without cigarettes.

  • Great Story! The Great American Smokeout is when I made the decision to quit smoking! So today I have been smoke – free for 22 years! Its hard to believe that I was such a heavy smoker and on this day I was able to put them down for good. I also remember what it was like to work on this campus too when there were so many smokers! Well times are changing!

  • Thanks Nicole. Your story is wonderful and so personal. A true testament to all that smoker or non-smoker, everyone needs some encouragment. You were a wonderful one to your mom!

  • Great story Nicole!! I knew your mom used to smoke but had never heard the story. It’s very inspiring and I wish I would have asked about it when I quit. I’m very proud to say that I’ve been smoke free for three years now. :-)

  • Thanks for the great story about your mom! And thanks to all of the people who have responded with their own stories of quitting smoking. My own mom smoked when I was a child and teenager, but quit when I was 17, now a long 30 years ago, after she was in the hospital for a minor surgery, but wound up having a collapsed lungh and having to stay there for several weeks. She has never picked up a cigarette since and is in great health!