Fort St. John
Pamela Wray from Fort St. John in northern B.C. had been smoking for over half a century before she quit. We chose to feature Pam because she is living proof that you are never too old to make lifestyle changes. Since Pam gave up smoking she is walking more and is taking art classes.
Pam was 72 years old when she quit. She had wanted to give up smoking before, especially when her son Shane quit, but she finally decided to do so one chilly evening when it was 40 below. As she was about to go and warm up the car and was reaching for her coat, a television advertisement about the BC Lung Association’s QuitNow & WIN contest came on (visit QuitNow.ca for tools and supports to help quit smoking). This was the added incentive Pam needed to quit. She decided to enter the contest there and then, but one of the contest rules was that she needed to enlist the help of a support buddy, someone she could call anytime she had cravings and who would help her overcome them. She called a friend and he immediately agreed to help. Pam threw away the rolling papers, and hid the ashtrays and anything else she thought might tempt her to change her mind. The next day, when she told her two best friends, they too decided to quit so that they could continue to spend time with her.
SeniorsBC: Pam, you had been smoking for 58 years. Tell us about your journey to becoming a non-smoker.
Pam: Last spring I started to work out at Curves. My doctor had sent me and the initial membership was paid for by someone or some organization. Working out led me to value my health more and I gained a sense of pride in my accomplishments as my blood pressure dropped and my stamina improved. Ailments that were not attributed to any other illness disappeared, like my terribly sore feet that had prevented me from walking any distance. I guess what I am saying is I had to learn to value myself and my health more in order to have the intention to quit. I also wanted to be an example to my family, friends and students.
SeniorsBC: How did you manage the difficulties of giving up smoking?
Pam: After I quit I managed my cravings by taking a deep breath and talking to myself. At first I had to keep my hands busy so I played games on the computer and did a lot of baking, cooking and cleaning. I also read lots of books on health and healing. I did not gain weight because I quit. I actually lost weight because I was more aware of the types of food I was eating and I was drinking more water, as well as working out. I was also meditating and feel that the extra strength that comes from that inner knowing place is an important aspect of my success.
SeniorsBC: How do you feel your health has improved since quitting?
Pam: My stamina has improved. I walk 2 km every other day and on opposite days I try to walk 1 km when I have time. I have also recently started using Wii Fit, so when it’s too icy and slippery outside, I work out with the Wii. It’s lots of fun. My sense of balance is much better.
SeniorsBC: What is the greatest benefit to you, now that you’ve quit?
Pam: My body feels different now: I don’t wake up with a toxic taste in my mouth and I enjoy a level of activity I didn’t know was possible. I am proud of myself and I want to continue feeling good about myself. I never want to be a slave to any addiction again, nor do I want to feel as sluggish as I did before.
SeniorsBC: What do you have to say to other long-term smokers who are trying to quit?
Pam: It is never too late to quit! Regardless of your age you will greatly benefit by quitting: financially, physically and psychologically. No matter what your health situation is, not smoking will ultimately make you feel better, smell better, look better and there will be more money in your wallet!
Pam also asked her doctor for help and she suggests telling your doctor about your decision to quit, and having him or her offer support before and after quitting. Pam was the inspiration for the It's Never Too Late to Quit Smoking brochure to help older and long-time smokers quit. It was developed in partnership with the QuitNow contest from the BC Lung Association and BC Ministry of Health.