Vance's story

Celebrating 5 months smoke free to receive life changing treatment

Livewell client Vance

Vance says "it's never too late to quit!"

After 47 years of smoking, Vance Middleton is celebrating five months free of being dependent on tobacco.

Vance from Derby is sharing his story for World No Tobacco Day on 31 May, to inspire other smokers in Derby who have tried to quit before that it’s never too late to succeed, and getting the right support can make all the difference.

The railway worker used to apply no smoking stickers to selected carriages back when smoking was allowed in designated spaces on public transport.

Now Vance is relieved that staying smokefree means he is being considered for crucial lung surgery to relieve his severe emphysema symptoms.

“Everyone smoked in the 70s and before the ban it was common to see people lighting up.

My wife and I tried numerous times to give up, but the cravings would get the better of us and we’d start again.

My worsening health was my motivation – being on medications last year for breathing difficulties was tough, so when the consultant explained I needed to pack up to qualify for Lung Volume Reduction Surgery (LVRS) to improve my quality of life, I knew it was time.

The procedure will remove the most damaged parts of my lungs so that the healthier parts can work better, making it easier for me to breathe.  However, specialists would only review my case if I didn’t smoke, completed pulmonary rehabilitation treatment and passed a series of tests to establish if I was fit enough for treatment. It felt like a long and daunting process.

Sceptical about joining a stop smoking programme but accepting I hadn’t managed to quit by myself, I signed up to Livewell and had a telephone appointment with advisor, Becky.  She listened to my struggles, discussed the free treatment options, supported me to set a quit date and together we put a plan in place for handling withdrawal symptoms.

Smoking my last cigarette on New Year’s Eve 2023, I was determined to make 2024 my first full smokefree year. 

Nicotine mouth spray and lozenges helped to keep cravings at bay for the challenging first couple of weeks.  I continued to use lozenges which thankfully prevented me from overindulging on junk food like crisps and ice cream.

Seeing my carbon monoxide levels reduce to that of a non-smoker was an extra incentive. 

Becky checked in with me regularly and sent fortnightly reminders to pick up my lozenges from the Livewell drop-ins.  With so many hospital appointments, rehab, tests and things going on I wouldn’t have managed to keep on track without the support from Livewell and the ImpACT+ team at the Florence Nightingale Community Hospital.

Inspired by my progress, my wife stopped smoking two months ago and it’s good we can support each other to stay smokefree.

Five months on and after the pulmonary rehab course and not smoking, I’m experiencing positive changes.  My breathing and oxygen levels have improved, and my lung capacity tests are heading in the right direction.  I could barely manage the walk test at the start of the year but now that’s more manageable. 

Since quitting, I’ve not had any health problems requiring extra medication or visited the doctors with breathing difficulties.

There’s a few more scans and tests to go but soon I’ll find out if I’m medically fit enough for the LVR operation.

I’m in a much better place both mentally and physically and determined to see this journey through."  

Livewell advisor, Becky Gilbert added:

‘’Battling mental health struggles, withdrawal symptoms and mood swings, Vance showed determination, perseverance as well as readiness to change throughout his Livewell journey. During particularly tough moments Vance switched to focusing on the positives instead of the negatives, and this became a turning point in his progress. From initially not thinking he could give up smoking, to then being accepted for his Lung Volume Reduction Surgery, Vance has come a long way and I wish him all the best in the future. It was a pleasure to work with him."