26th November 2017

Lesley Booth

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After making the decision to quit, Lesley Booth went online to find support and information for quitting smoking. It was then that the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s support forum ‘Quit Support’ became a part of her quitting process. Lesley replaced her morning cigarette with a morning post to the online group.

Cigarette advertising from the 1950s and 1960s
Lesley grew up surrounded by cigarette advertising and pictures of famous actresses smoking

Lesley was sold by the glamour of smoking, witnessing stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Sophie Loren and Audrey Hepburn grace her screens and magazine, cigarette in hand. However, as the facts surrounding cigarettes and its health risks emerged, attitudes changed. But by this time, it was too late. Lesley was addicted.

She had been a smoker for 40 years before deciding to quit after years of chest infections and coughs, she had lost all enjoyment of smoking and decided it was time to kick the habit.

Gradually for Lesley though, this pleasure turned to regret:

“I decided to quit when I retired. I realised I wasn’t actually enjoying the cigarettes and I was feeling out of place – literally when the smoking ban came in. When I started, smoking was the thing to do. Now the tables have turned and there more non-smokers than smokers. I felt quite isolated, even ashamed, by my habit.

“My health was also suffering. I had various bouts of flu and repeated chest infections. I also had the trademark ‘smoker’s cough’. All this, and I was paying for the privilege.

She said, “Posting messages to the group became a part of my daily routine and replaced my usual cigarette breaks. It’s important to find something to break your smoking routine, everybody is different, and you need to find what works best for you”.

Eleven months after she chose to quit smoking, Lesley was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012, following a CT scan, which showed a tumour on her right lung.

Lesley explained, “After initially only going to the doctors because of leg pains I was surprised about the amount of testing I had before being sent home. I was then called in for a CT scan two days later.

“I just assumed I had arthritis. But I was wrong.”

“After the results of my CT scan came back showing a tumour on my lung, I was told that they would have to perform two operations.

“One was to remove a tumour near my windpipe and the main artery to my brain and then another to remove my whole right lung. If the first operation had been unsuccessful then that would have been the end as far as any treatment was concerned.

You smoked though, didn’t you?

This was a question Lesley heard many times. It something she asked herself repeatedly too.

“Deep down I blamed myself for smoking – how could I not. And, if I’m completely honest with myself, I did ignore my symptoms. My family, however, never judged me. They were supportive and never mentioned the fact that I smoked. Other people, including many who knew me, were less understanding.

“Both my husband and I were faced with that question on many occasions. I say question, it’s more like an accusation. It made me feel ashamed but angry too – how could these people be so hurtful, people that I knew and that knew me. I know some people who believe people with lung cancer don’t deserve treatments like other cancer patients. It’s heartbreaking to hear. We aren’t bad people.

“It’s also totally neglecting the fact that not all lung cancers are caused by smoking. Between 10-15% of people get lung cancer without ever smoking.”

“Since that first diagnosis, I have had several serious illnesses, including a heart attack and secondary cancer of my adrenal gland. I am currently cancer free and hopeful for the future.

“If I had not stayed positive and received support throughout it all, I do not think I would have survived. Life after the treatments and operations is definitely slower, and for a while, I was afraid to go out for fear of being too breathless.”

Keep positive, says Lesley

“After three years of illness and pain, all I can say is that I wish I had never smoked.”

Lesley (left) abseiled down the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral earlier this year, raising money for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Lesley is currently cancer free and is now an administrator on our Quit Support forum which was instrumental in helping her quit. She offers help and support, advice and encouragement to those looking to escape the clutches of cigarettes. All without judgement. She also featured in our 2017 Lung Cancer Awareness Month campaign #HeadHigh