Elizabeth, age 62, lives in Texas and started smoking menthol cigarettes at age 18. As a newlywed, Elizabeth was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD) and had to have major surgery to restore blood flow to her legs. She later developed kidney cancer. Her husband, Stephen, became her primary caregiver, something she never envisioned when she first started smoking.


Elizabeth, age 62, started smoking menthol cigarettes at the age of 18 because her friends and co-workers smoked. Within a year, Elizabeth was smoking about a pack and a half a day. She smoked at home and work and participated in activities where she could smoke. “Everything revolved around the ability to smoke,” she said. “I was a prisoner to my addiction.”

When Elizabeth was 42 years old, she had a stroke. Doctors advised her to quit smoking immediately, but Elizabeth continued to struggle with nicotine addiction for another 10 years. She tried to quit multiple times using various strategies. Then, when she was 52, something clicked. She set a quit date, threw away her ashtrays, changed routines connected to smoking, and used nicotine patches. Using a combination of strategies, Elizabeth finally quit smoking for good.

Two weeks later, Elizabeth started dating her future husband, Stephen. The pair enjoyed taking long walks together, until Elizabeth started experiencing numbness in her feet and cramping in her calves. She was diagnosed with smoking-related peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition in which her arteries had narrowed and blocked the flow of blood to her legs. Just four months after she and Stephen married, Elizabeth had to have major surgery to restore blood flow to her legs.

In more recent years, Elizabeth has developed kidney cancer. But she feels that PAD is her biggest challenge to everyday living. She can no longer take the stairs. Walking is painful but critical to saving her legs from amputation, so she and Stephen make taking walks a daily priority.

Elizabeth shares her personal experience with smoking-related diseases and provides support to others who are struggling with PAD. “If I had never smoked that first cigarette, I may not have lit the fuse for PAD,” she said. “My goal is to help other young people never start smoking.


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