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Nancy's Story: Quitting Smoking Takes More Than Willpower

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Nancy's Story

Nancy started smoking in nursing school. It helped relieve the stress of school. But years later, something happened to make her think twice about her smoking habit.

Nancy was working as a nurse and was exposed to someone who had a bad case of pneumonia. As a precaution, Nancy was checked for pneumonia. The X-ray revealed that she didn't have pneumonia—but her lungs did show early signs of emphysema. "It scared the daylights out of me," Nancy says.

So Nancy started to think seriously about quitting. But quitting was harder than she thought it would be. It took her 3 years and 30 tries before she was able to quit smoking for good

Struggling to quit

Quitting was a struggle. Back then, she didn't understand that she was addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. She thought that quitting smoking was all about willpower. And at that time there weren't a lot of tools available to help someone quit smoking. The patch had just come out, and she hadn't heard much about it.

So Nancy found herself in a cycle of quitting and relapsing—smoking for a few weeks between each attempt at quitting. Despite what felt like repeated failure, she didn't give up. "It was the fear of not being able to breathe" that kept her motivated to keep trying to quit, Nancy says.

As a nurse, Nancy knew firsthand what it was like to struggle for each breath. She worked in an intensive care unit where many of her patients suffered from lung disease. "I really made myself focus on the future of my life. I want to be skiing when I'm 70. I don't want an oxygen tank."

Nancy's story reflects her experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Nancy to protect her privacy.


Credits for Nancy's Story: Quitting Smoking Takes More Than Willpower

Current as of: February 11, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health


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