Quitting was not easy for Becca Mendelson. But it was worth it.
Becca Mendelson was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Northern Virginia. She earned a writing degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Becca currently lives on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and works as a classic rock DJ.
Why did you start smoking?
I started smoking when I was 18. I was past the peer pressure age, but my boyfriend smoked, and smoking was part of the whole college atmosphere. I smoked about half a pack to a pack a day.
Why did you want to quit?
My mom got cancer. I was coming home for Thanksgiving. I was going to be in airports and airplanes with no smoking, no one smoked at home, and I didn't want to smoke around my mom. It was the perfect time to quit.
How many times have you tried to quit?
Probably once a year for the last 10 years. I once quit for over a year when I was getting ready to join the Peace Corps. But when that fell through, I moved to St. Croix and became a bartender. In that environment, it was easy to start again.
What methods have you used to try to quit?
This time I went cold turkey. I have felt annoyed at times, but it's not unbearable. I have tried the patch previously, but didn't like the side effects.
What benefits do you see from quitting?
Well, I don't smell like smoke, and it's definitely healthier. I no longer have a deep raspy voice.
How long have you quit this time?
Two weeks! And when I go back to St. Croix, I won't be bartending, so I won't be surrounded by smokers. I think that will help!
Benefits of Quitting
- 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate drops.
- 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your heart attack risk begins to drop, and lung function improves.
- 1 to 9 months after quitting: Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- 1 year after quitting: Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
- 5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker's.
- 10 years after quitting: Your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker's.
- 15 years after quitting: Your risk of coronary heart disease returns to normal.
To Find Out More
Additional information is available at:
- MedlinePlus: medlineplus.gov/smoking.html
- National Cancer Institute: www.smokefree.gov--science-driven tools, information, and support for anyone trying to stop smoking.
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: a guide for quitting smokeless tobacco.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: http://smoking.drugabuse.gov/ Includes information on treating tobacco use and nicotine addiction for adults and teens.
Free Guide Helps You Quit
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) offers a free, 38-page guide– Clearing the Air: Quit Smoking Today –to help smokers take the right steps to quit successfully. Included in the guide are helpful tools and strategies, including:
- A nicotine addiction test to determine how much you depend on nicotine
- A checklist of smoking triggers to help you understand the addiction
- A sample smoking journal to record your smoking habits Information on how to set a Quit Date
- A quitting worksheet
- Strategies to help avoid slips and ways to have a healthier lifestyle
A PDF of the guide can be downloaded from www.cancer.gov. Enter "Clearing the Air" in the Search box. Or, call 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) for a printed guide.