This article originally appeared on Spry.com, an online women’s health magazine. Click here to view this story on Spry’s website.
Lisa Lineberger’s drive to smoke was so all-consuming that even her mother’s diagnosis of lung cancer at age 59 wasn’t enough to get her to put down the cigarettes for good.
So the fact that Lisa is now four years smoke-free, runs four to six days a week and devotes both her personal and professional lives to keeping cigarettes out of the hands of young people is all the more inspiring.
The Olney, Md., mother of two started smoking at age 18. Unaware—or in denial—of the risks to her own health, Lisa didn’t take quitting seriously until she was 27 and pregnant with her daughter, Kelsey. While she knew smoking was dangerous to her growing baby, and despite her doctor’s warnings, she couldn’t stop. She delivered Kelsey prematurely at 30 weeks, a fact she now attributes to her pack-a-day habit.
“The week that I was in the hospital [after having Kelsey] was the longest I had gone without a cigarette,” she says. “As soon as I left, I lit up.”
A second pregnancy was still not enough for Lineberger to kick her habit. And then her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“I was watching [mom] go through this disease, taking chemotherapy and radiation, and I still could not quit,” she says. “I became a hardcore closet smoker. I was smoking in the garage and in the backyard.”
Lisa’s mother died in November of 2005. Amid her grief, Lisa promised her daughter, Camryn, that she would quit. After trying just about every other means possible–inhalers, patches and gum—she didn’t have high hopes. But once she started taking the prescription smoking cessation aide, Chantix, she lost her cravings for cigarettes. She smoked her last on Jan. 28, 2008.
Now 45, Lisa is doing everything she can to prevent others from smoking, using Internet forums and sites such as Women.SmokeFree.gov to encourage women who are trying to quit. Lisa’s daughter, Kelsey, 16, is also an anti-smoking advocate, sharing her mother’s story with friends and in her health classes at school.
Healthier than ever, Lisa exercises four to six times per week, alternating weight training and running three to four miles. While she gained approximately 15 pounds after quitting, she says, a bit of extra weight was worth it. “I substituted smoking with exercise and I eventually became able to run over six miles,” says Lisa, adding that she’s lost about 10 of the pounds she’d gained. “I may be a pants size bigger, but I can run much further than I ever could.”