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Smokefree - Real People Real Stories

Tammy, 62 from Dunedin started smoking when she was 13 years old. “I remember lying on the grass verge in Caversham with a friend, smoking so much that we were ill. The sky was spinning around but we still smoked.”

All Tammy’s family smoked - her mother used to walk around with a cigarette constantly in her mouth. “She never took it out. 40 to 50 cigarettes a day, and we just followed suit.”

Tammy’s two children hated the fact she smoked. “They hated it with a vengeance, so I used to sneak around and smoke and they used to say to me we can smell it on you.”

Tammy was a very active person when she smoked. She would go to the gym every day and walk to work from St Clair to central Dunedin. “In a million years I never thought anything would happen to me, but it did.”

At age 50, Tammy had three days where she experienced severe chest pain and couldn’t quite work out what was going on. “What was really interesting was every time I took a puff of a cigarette the pain would intensify 10 times.” She visited her GP but after sitting in the waiting room for some time, the ECG the GP gave her showed nothing. She was advised however that should she experience more chest pain she would need to go straight to the hospital. While out for lunch with work colleagues after that GP visit, Tammy collapsed. She was rushed to the Emergency Department where she was advised she was having a major heart event. From there she was taken straight to theatre and had a stent put in the worst blockage. “I was told very clearly by my cardiologist that if I continued to smoke I would die.” Tammy stopped smoking immediately. “I just know that I can’t and never ever will I smoke again.”

For six months following her heart attack Tammy lived in fear she would have another one. That is why she simply did not think about smoking. “Smoking was just gone.” Tammy has not had another heart attack. She has had two more stents put in, but knew that would have to happen and that she will be on medication for the rest of her life. Her doctors say the medication is preventative, but reiterates the best preventative is being smokefree.

At age 54 Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Again I was very lucky. They got it early and for my treatment, not to be smoking was amazing as smoking sets back so many things in your life.”

Today Tammy is 12 years smokefree, and seven years cancer free. She is fit and well, living life to the full. She enjoys time with her six grandchildren, her two adult children and her husband. She is back doing exercise and loves walking her two dogs. Tammy attributes being here and healthy today solely to having given up smoking.