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Kathryn Smith, 39, from north county Dublin, recently managed to give up a 20-a-day cigarette habit with the help of the HSE’s free Quit team and went on to run 10k in the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon – after promising her terminally-ill dad she would raise money to help others with his devastating lung condition.
Kathryn had been smoking since her late teens and earlier this year lost dad, Billy, to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
A condition commonly caused by smoking, it affects the quality of the airflow to the lungs, and naturally enough, Kathryn began to think about her own habit.
She says: “I just hated the fact that even after visiting my dad in hospital, I’d be walking outside and having a cigarette.”
Her dad passed away in January. Two days after his funeral, Kathryn was determined to give up cigarettes: “I said to myself, that’s it, I’m getting off them. I rang the Quit team. They had a consultation with me over the phone and were so supportive. They called me every single week after that to find out how I was getting on.
“I began using nicotine patches. Then one day I just forgot to put one on, and after that, it was cold turkey. I did try an e-cig too but found it gave me awful headaches.”
“For me, the goal in sight was June 6th, the mini-marathon and doing it for the COPD Support charity in memory of my Dad. I promised him when he was ill that I would do the race to raise money for those suffering from the disease.”
Kathryn and husband Paul had both taken up running and had completed a few runs previously but 10k was daunting.
Kathryn wasn’t sure she’d be able for it – “having been such a heavy smoker, there were times I’d nearly be needing an oxygen mask after even a short run” – but she stuck at it.
After getting off cigarettes, a breathing check I did at the start compared to another one recently shows how my lungs have gotten far stronger. I have more energy, more get-up-and-go. It’s also improved my mental health, being able to run, and helped with my grieving process.”
It wasn’t long until Kathryn was regularly running 8 or 9km. So she was feeling confident by the time the big race came around but was still surprised to find she had completed the race in an amazing time of 63 minutes.
Kathryn said: “It was a very emotional moment crossing the finish line and keeping that promise to my dad.” It showed on her face – a photographer snapped Kathryn’s tearful expression at the finish line, sparking a piece in the Evening Herald about her.
As well as fulfilling her promise, she raised funds for COPD.ie and on Father’s Day also completed a 5km run in aid of St Francis’ Hospice. She said: “It’s great to give back something to the hospice that had looked after dad so well.” Kathryn says she is a new woman since quitting. Here are her top tips for kicking the habit.