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My name is Tony Conlon and I was a smoker. I started smoking when I was about 12 or 13 years old as it was the thing to do at the time. I joined the army in 1978 when I was 17 and I was involved in many sports including soccer, GAA, athletics, cross-country running and mountain climbing.
After 2 years, I completed my training and it was then I started to experience chest pains. During my training and since I played so much sport I was outdoors in all types of weather and because of this I got a diagnosis of bronchitis.
After a while, my infection and chest pains did not disappear so it was then my doctor advised me to stop smoking. He said if I did not stop smoking the chest pains would never go away. Being young and foolish, I kept on smoking and did so up until late 2019.
Down through the years I continued to get chest infections, kept going to the doctor and I was always advised to stop smoking. I was also now on the verge of getting C.O.P.D. This never bothered me, as I was stubborn to the fact of what this meant. Then it all got worse. In March of 2019, I contracted a very bad infection and was diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor prescribed steroids and penicillin to try to fight it. After about 2 weeks, it got better only for it to come back even worse. This time I found it very hard to breathe, was not able to keep food down and eventually lost my appetite altogether. My doctor told me I had to stop smoking now or I would be carrying an oxygen tank for the rest of my life or worse. This time I had to see a lung specialist, as I was unable to go up the stairs without being out of breath. I worked with a physiotherapist on my breathing and after that, I went to Dr. Gail McNeill in the HSE Stop Smoking Clinic. I had my first visit with her in September and had a carbon monoxide breath test. I was shocked at the results; I had more carbon monoxide in my lungs than oxygen. This shock led me to finally giving up.
I met Gail again after 2 weeks. From then I had reduced the amount that I smoked so this time my carbon monoxide levels were lower, I had more oxygen in my body and I noticed I could breathe easier. I picked a date to stop completely: November 1st 2019. I continued to meet Gail every 2 weeks until I finally stopped. . Now, not only was I getting better but also I was saving a lot of money. Prior to quitting, I did not realise how much I was spending on tobacco, therefore saving so much money gave me more motivation. I decided to put my savings to good use and get something that would remind me why I quit - I bought a new car.
At the end of November, Gail carried out another breath test on me. The results shocked me again. My carbon monoxide levels were 0! I was astounded, I never imagined I would be able to quit.
I used two NRT products together to quit but I am no longer on tablets or inhalers. I can climb any stairs without running out of breath and I now have a lot more money in my pocket so I can spend it on what I want. I was able to pay for a holiday for my wife and myself. I quit over two years ago, and I must say I never thought for 1 second that I would give up smoking. To wake up every morning and not have to cough, to be at a stage that I now hate the smell of smoke is a delight. The help I received from Dr. Gail McNeill at the HSE Stop Smoking Clinic, the information she gave me and the encouragement to keep going, has helped me to become what I am now – a proud ex-smoker.
Everyone can benefit from giving up smoking; this advice is coming from someone who smoked between 20 and 60 a day for almost 40 years, suffered with lung and chest infections and was on the verge of developing C.O.P.D. I now have a better life, have a new car, have been on holiday, have another holiday paid for and I’m due to celebrate my 60th birthday in June and my 40 year wedding anniversary in August. If I can do it, so can you.