UI Cancer Center helping smokers kick their habit

Asthma often causes Danielle Prude’s breathing to be labored, and having her lungs filled with the smoke wafting from her husband’s cigarettes only made her lungs worse.

Never a smoker herself, Prude gladly attended the Freedom From Smoking program sponsored by the University of Illinois Cancer Center to support her husband and his goal of kicking his cigarette habit. It worked.

“I was in the military, healthy, was at my ideal weight and was able to run, but once I picked up the habit of cigarette smoking, I couldn’t exercise and I lost a lot of weight,” said Jonathan Mason, Prude’s husband. “I have now been smoke-free for 41 days, and have regained my weight. It feels good to be smoke-free, and now I can do more activities. This program has given me hope.”

The University of Illinois Cancer Center is partnering with the American Lung Association on the eight session, seven week course designed for individuals who want to stop using tobacco products. Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It causes more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, and cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer.

Since its initiation in September 2018, 16 sessions have been completed, said UI Cancer Center patient navigator Barbara Williams, who leads the courses along with fellow navigator Ivanhoe Hall. Navigator Paola Torres also assists in facilitating the course. Topics include: Thinking About Quitting; On the Road to Freedom; Wanting to Quit; Quit Day; Winning Strategies; The New You; Staying Off; and Celebration. A graduation was recently held at Mile Square Englewood Clinic, where the courses were held. Classes are also held at Mile Square’s main clinic.

Participants listen to lectures during the sessions, but it’s not limited to coursework. During the seven weeks, they pull together to help one another overcome their smoking habit. The program, said Derek Klopfenstein, was “God sent.”

“I was trying to quit, and have struggled with quitting since I was 19,” he said. “I received a call from the QuitLine and they recommended the class to me. I was hesitant, but I reached out to Barbara and she told me to give one class a try. I travelled over an hour, and I have now been smoke free since January 16. I tried quitting 25 to 30 times, but each time lasted a week. I’m glad I came.”

John Lathon had been smoking so long that all he thought about when he woke up in the morning was to light up a cigarette. It was his habit for decades. Now he knows he can overcome his desires.

“Now I get up in the morning and if I think about it, I put my mind to something else. The course has really helped.”

As the graduation ceremony concluded, Williams reminded the participants that “this is not the end of your journey, but the beginning. The University of Illinois Cancer Center staff is here to support you today and every day in the future.”

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