Corinne Savage (66, Riverview, NB) and Yvette Austin (79, Saint Pons, NB) are two inspiring women in their senior years who prove that tobacco-free living is possible at any age and is worth it—even after decades of being a smoker.
Both were contacted by the NBTAC upon sharing on Facebook how proud they were to have quit smoking. Their comments were made during the NBATC’s 2018 National Non-Smoking Week #SayNoToTobacco Contest.
“One morning I just decided I had had enough and that I needed to quit smoking or I was going to end up with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and an oxygen tank,” states Corinne Savage. “I smoked for over 50 years. I tried quitting so many times, it felt like every 6 months, pretty much my entire smoking life! I was plagued with bronchitis and pulmonary infections at least two to three times per year. I tried cold turkey, the patch, hypnosis, prescription smoking cessation aids … Everything!”
Corinne grew up in Fredericton and started smoking at 16 years of age. Just like many New Brunswickers in her age group, she was initiated to cigarettes in a time when smoking was more socially acceptable and part of daily life, and when people were not aware of the risks. She would, unfortunately, have to battle her nicotine addiction for most of her life. Corinne eventually moved to Riverview where she spent most of her adult life working in the hospitality and restaurant industry, which she says also contributed to making it harder for her to quit since she was around a lot of second-hand smoke.
“You need to do it for yourself and be ready,” says Corinne, who was finally able to quit smoking successfully in November 2012. If you are not doing it for you, you will not succeed. On top of treatments which I believe helped relieve my withdrawal symptoms, I also looked at my routines surrounding my cigarette use and changed some of them. For example,I decided to replace the physical act of smoking with something healthy and beneficial to my body: drinking water. So, I always had a glass or bottle of water with me, and whenever those cravings would hit me hard, I would drink a lot of water.”
Corinne Savage successfully quit smoking in 2012 after being a smoker for over 50 years and says she feels better than ever. She has even taken up running!
Yvette Austin also went through many quit smoking attempts before finally finding the right nicotine replacement therapy and guidance that allowed her to remain tobacco-free. She smoked for 59 years, finally finding success with her quit smoking attempt at the age of 76. “I started smoking when I was 17,” she recalls. “I was heading to Montreal to find work and my friend gave me a pack of cigarettes at the train station as a gift. I smoked them on the train and, of course, I was hooked from that point on. Everyone smoked back then. My entire family smoked. It was only a matter of time until I became a smoker too. But I tried to quit many times, especially as I got older. I tried the patch, nicotine gum, and the inhaler. My dear granddaughter Karelle knew of my struggles and she is very knowledgeable on the topic. I thought I had tried it all, but she suggested nicotine lozenges and I really liked those; they worked well for me. I had a half-pack of cigarettes left when I used my first lozenge and finished this pack gradually while taking lozenges until I did not feel the need to smoke anymore. I have not touched a single cigarette since finishing that pack. I am very proud of it. My husband is a former smoker, but he quit smoking over 35 years ago, following the advice of his doctor, since he suffered from gastric ulcers. None of my children and grandchildren smoke, and since becoming a non-smoker myself, I can proudly say that I have a 100% smoke-free home and family!”
Yvette Austin was able to reclaim her mobility after her back surgery and continues to live life to the fullest now thanks to her decision to quit smoking and the advice and counselling she received from her granddaughter, Karelle Guignard.
The granddaughter that Yvette mentions is Karelle Guignard (35, Moncton, NB). Indeed, Karelle is an expert on the topic; she manages the Smoking Cessation Program at Vitalité Health Network. Karelle can attest to the fact that everyone is different when it comes to quitting smoking. “There is no set formula for success. With the patients that we see in our hospitals and our various clinics who offer smoking cessation help and counselling, we take the time to get to know them and make recommendations based on their needs, lifestyle and how much nicotine they are used to consuming by smoking cigarettes. For example, a heavy smoker may need to use nicotine replacement therapies like the patch, gum, lozenges or an inhaler on top of smoking cessation prescription therapies like Varenicline and Bupropion. We often recommend a combination of different nicotine replacement therapies on top of each other or simply a higher dose of the patient’s chosen nicotine replacement therapy if they are a heavy smoker. Some people find greater success quitting smoking like my grandmother did, with a reduce to quit approach, which means that they use their nicotine replacement therapy to gradually reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke per day, replacing each cigarette that they do not smoke with a piece of nicotine gum or a lozenge. There is also the pre-quit approach: depending on the daily number of cigarettes a smoker is used to smoking, they can start wearing a nicotine patch 24 hours a day and continue smoking. They will notice that their cravings will ease and that the number of cigarettes they smoke per day will gradually drop. After a few weeks, they will be even more ready to quit smoking completely.”
Karelle adds, “I remember my grandmother telling me, when I was little, to not ever touch cigarettes. She hated the smell it left on her, and she would never smoke while out in public—she was ashamed of it. In her 70s, she started having pain related to spinal stenosis and drastically losing her mobility and independence. Her doctor recommended surgery. The entire family got behind her and took this opportunity to help her quit smoking for good, before the surgery. We informed her of the risks associated with being a smoker for her surgery and how much easier and quicker she would recuperate from the surgery if she were a non-smoker. By quitting smoking months ahead of her surgery, she really helped her chances of a good recovery.”
By quitting smoking in advance of her surgery, Yvette bounced back from her ordeal, and in as little as six months, was back to her normal self, fully ready to enjoy the remainder of her senior years.
“I was definitely extra motivated because of the surgery,” confirms Yvette. “I was using a walker, and I hated it. I could not do all the things that I was used to doing for myself and that was scary. I wanted the surgery to go well so that I could be more independent again. The lozenges were also the right nicotine replacement therapy for me, and the fact that Karelle made me understand that I did not need to stop smoking cold turkey—that I could also keep using the lozenges for as long as I need them—were key to my success. She called me to check up on me often and offered a lot of counselling and advice. She has made me understand that there is no shame in the fact that even now, two and a half years later, once in a while, when I feel the need, I still take a lozenge.”
Indeed, some long-term smokers may need to continue to use a patch their entire lifetime, or gum or lozenges. It is a much better alternative than continuing to smoke. The nicotine creates the addiction, but it does not harm the body. What harms the body is the tobacco itself as well as all the chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Long-term smokers should be encouraged by the fact that they will see immediate health benefits and their body will start to repair itself.
In fact, according to the World Health Organization, even smokers who have already developed smoking-related health problems can still benefit from quitting and add some years to their life expectancy:
- At about 40: gain 9 years of life expectancy.
- At about 50: gain 6 years of life expectancy.
- At about 60: gain 3 years of life expectancy.
- After the onset of life-threatening disease: rapid benefit, people who quit smoking after having a heart attack reduce their chances of having another heart attack by 50%
Corinne and Yvette can certainly attest to the benefits of quitting smoking.
“My life has changed for the better since quitting smoking,” states Corinne. “I thankfully did not develop COPD. I am no longer a slave to my cigarettes. You don’t realize how much time it takes away from your daily life until you finally quit. Once I quit, almost immediately, within a week, the persistent cough was gone. I felt better physically. A few years later, I felt so great that I even took up running, something I never thought I would do!”
“I feel so much better,” says Yvette. “Two years after I quit smoking, my doctor even told me that my lungs were now all clear. I have so much more energy. I am so happy and proud of myself. I encourage smokers to keep trying until they are successful in quitting. Yes, it is very difficult, but it is possible!”
“It’s never too late to quit,” adds Karelle. “The benefits are worth it. Even for long-term smokers who have developed COPD, the disease’s progression can be slowed if the patient quits smoking. Quitting smoking can help them maintain the lung function they have left. It can also help them avoid serious flare-ups.”
Story and photos used with permission from Corinne Savage, Yvette Austin, Karelle Guignard and the Smokers’ Helpline.
Published in November 2018.
Author: Nathalie Landry – NBATC Communications Coordinator.