THE BLOG

This Leaves Me Fuming

02/03/2016 11:50 GMT | Updated 02/03/2017 10:12 GMT

The very idea that funding for Stop Smoking Services may be considered an 'optional extra' leaves me fuming, and I'll tell you why...

My beloved husband, Bill, vigorously smoked from when he was about 15, until he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April 2013 (when he was in his 50s). He'd half-heartedly toyed with giving up from time-to-time, especially when his business partner, also a life-long smoker, had a heart attack in September 2012. But it never happened. Bill combined smoking with mowing the lawns, bathing the dog, decorating, cleaning out the fishpond, you name it; he could combine anything with smoking.

He had tried to stop in the past and I remember a particularly unpleasant fortnight in about 1995 when he took the plunge and just stopped. It was something he was fairly committed to and it lasted about a fortnight, if that. I had often asked him to stop for all our sakes (me and our three children) he was fully aware of the potential health implications, but very simply, he enjoyed it. I think if he'd had professional support then, he would have succeeded. It's very hard, if not impossible, to go it alone.

After his diagnosis and at the most stressful time of his life, he decided to give up. His operation was scheduled within days and at his pre-operation appointment, he was told that that as the hospital did not allow smoking anywhere on the site, they would provide him with nicotine patches if necessary. Normally, the prospect of anything remotely irritating would be the signal for him to light up, but the thought that his life was being threatened gave him the immense strength and courage he needed to stop smoking.

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Bill and I at a garden party in late summer 2013

Our GP offered the services of 'Sister Wendy, The Smoking Nurse' based at the surgery in the next village. She helped him hugely and with her support, nicotine patches and regular CO₂ tests, heroically, he did stop smoking. He found it 'challenging' (and so did the rest of us...) but it worked. It was incredibly hard for him but we all encouraged him and he plodded on. We changed our routines and helped him as much as we could. He was often tempted but as the days went by, it got easier for him. I know (and he would have agreed) that without a structured programme, visits to see Wendy and the patches, he couldn't have done it. He was truly amazing. It didn't stop him walking dangerously close to smokers in the street 'just to get a whiff' though.

My precious husband died recently, he tackled cancer with every ounce of his being and never complained or gave up. It swamped him in the end and his memory really, I wanted to find something positive to do. I couldn't bear anyone else to go through what we did. That is completely unrealistic of course, but if I can help one person stop smoking and possibly not get cancer, I feel that perhaps not everything has been in vain.

I honestly I don't think he would have coped so well without 'Sister Wendy' and her stop smoking service.

Nicky is backing Cancer Research UK's Big Tobacco Cough Up campaign, which is calling on the public to help make the tobacco industry pay for the damage they cause and use their profits to keep Stop Smoking services open. The petition demands the government impose a £500 million levy on the tobacco industry's market share in the UK.

Sign the petition at cruk.org/big-tobacco-cough-up