Helen Smith – now in her 60s and a smoker since her teens – got the news no one hopes to hear, late last year.
Helen says: “I was diagnosed with cancer. So, I stopped smoking virtually that day. They had me in hospital, I had a lung removed, and I was very sick. I wasn’t well enough to do anything. And from then on they recommended being smokefree.”
There was so much happening at the time, she is unsure whether it was the team at the hospital or her GP at Newmarket Medical Centre who asked if she wanted assistance to quit.
Her response to her health care team must have been yes, as soon after came the call from Prashant at Ready Steady Quit - a service offering free help, free nicotine replacement therapy and free counselling for smokers wanting to quit.
By her own estimation, the service made all the difference.
“The first time, I didn’t call back – I was overwhelmed by everything.”
Prashant called again, and this time she was cautiously ready to talk.
“I rang him back and said, ‘Look, I think need some help’.
“Then he came to see me.
“It was brilliant because I could actually talk to somebody rather than trying to do it on my own. He was quite calming, whereas before I was getting wound up, ‘How was I going to manage it?’ type of thing. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to manage.”
Prashant was available to meet her face-to-face, when it was convenient for her.
“He would see me and talk it through and understand how I felt.”
Helen had tried to quit many times before, and once tried hypnotherapy, which she says was “a very strange experience. Not for me!”
She says her husband has never smoked – so he couldn’t understand why she couldn’t just stop.
“Really, I smoked a pack a day all that time. I’ve known all my life that it will cause cancer, but something was stopping me actually doing anything about it.”
The Remuera mother and grandmother hasn’t had a single cigarette since quitting, even in situations that once would have been the trigger.
“I work in a stress job, customer care, so I’m dealing with people needing fixes. There I was one day, and I started searching in my handbag. I was getting ready to go outside and have a smoke. Then I went ‘Oh that’s right!’ That was just a habitual thing that I do in my mind. That was how I fix the stress. But I’m getting better at managing myself.
“My thing is, I have to suck a lozenge instead.”
The family are thrilled she is still smokefree, and naturally anxious she should remain well.
For this, Helen’s support person remains a big part of her continued success.
“It’s the fact that I know Prashant is coming to see me or call. I want him to be proud of how I’m achieving. He has just been absolutely marvellous. It would be nice if I could be one of his success stories instead of falling off the wagon.
“And to think I didn’t even know those services were available. My GP knows now too, and I told her how helpful it is and what a difference it makes.”