How one woman quit after more than 40 years of tobacco use

In 1973, when Cathy Lisk was 16, she worked with her father, who worked at Central Commercial Company in Kingman. Her job: stamping the official state seal on packages of cigarettes.

“All the guys in the office smoked,” she remembers. “My dad always wore a pack rolled up in his sleeve. So it was easy for me to start, too.”

Cathy, who now lives in Sedona, kept lighting up for the next 42 years – even though she was allergic to cigarette smoke. The day her father died of lung cancer in 2002, he asked her to promise to do one last thing for him: Quit smoking.

She promised, and 13 years later she quit. Changes take time, but Cathy got on the non-smoking road for good after a visit with her Northern Arizona Healthcare cardiologist, who was treating her because heart disease runs in her family.

 “He asked me, ‘Do you want to live to be 75?’” Cathy remembers. “I said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘With the things you’re doing; smoking and not exercising and not sleeping, you’re not going to.’”

“It really hit me then, and I knew I had to do something.

“I never missed a smoke break,” she mused on her 30 years working at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

One day, as she was still struggling with quitting, Cathy’s son brought her a flier for Verde Valley Medical Center’s Freedom From Smoking class, an eight-week program designed by the American Lung Association to help smokers quit nicotine addiction permanently. The class was the key to Cathy’s decision to stay smoke-free.

“The class teaches you to think about the question, ‘Why do I smoke?’” Cathy explains. “It makes you look inward and examine your smoking triggers.”

On a road trip, Cathy took her last three cigarettes with her, lighting up ritually at each stop along the way. She smoked her last cigarette on Oct. 9, 2015.

“It was a long goodbye,” she says.

Cathy still draws on what she learned in the Freedom From Smoking class. At traditional “smoking times,” such as after meals, she gets up and does something else. She keeps in mind how much better it feels to be a non-smoker – no more stuffy nose; no more sleepless nights gasping for air.

And now, she helps others by speaking to the Freedom From Smoking classes at VVMC. She feels inspired to pass on what she’s learned to others who are fighting the same battle to escape tobacco’s grip.

“You can do it – you have to have your mind right and look straight ahead; not just ‘try’ to quit,” Cathy says. “I tell myself, ‘You’re not going back.’ And then I say, ‘It took 13 years, but your dad is proud of you now.’”

Interested in quitting? To learn more about VVMC's Freedom From Smoking class and upcoming dates, contact Pam Diffin, RCP, at 928-639-5391.

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