‘I don’t want people to live with regret’ South Shields cancer survivor urges smokers in the region to quit

Sue Mountain is one of two survivors from the North East, backing Fresh’s Smoking Survivors campaign, to help others to quit.

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A cancer survivor from South Shields is now urging 314,000 smokers in the region to quit, as part of a campaign by Fresh.

Sue Mountain, aged 57 started smoking at the age of 11. “I did it to fit in, it was the in thing”, she explained.

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In 2012, at the age of 48 Sue was diagnosed with cancer of the voice box. She received laser treatment. “I continued to smoke despite this, because of the addiction”, Sue explained.

Sadly, Sue was diagnosed once again with cancer in 2017, which had returned in a much more aggressive form, meaning Sue had to undergo radiotherapy to treat it.

Sue decided to quit for good after she was diagnosed for the second time. She had support from a friend who said to her: “You dare start smoking again!” and Sue recounted that her friend’s firm words stuck with her.

Sue explained: “After radiotherapy, you can’t even eat or drink. You need a tube for feeding. You can’t even swallow your saliva. The last thing on my mind was smoking.”

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Sue said that she was forced to quit due to the radiotherapy, but she is urging others to quit before it gets to that point. “I don’t want people to be forced to quit when it is too late, I don’t want them to live with regret,” she said.

Sue began to get emotional as she explained to us her reasons for quitting and why she is encouraging others to do the same. She said: “It’s really important. I’ve got grandkids, and I don’t want them to be brought up in a society when it is so readily available and so easily accessed. I was just a child myself.”

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Sue further explained that she does not want other families to go through what she and hers did. “It is horrible for our children to think they are going to lose their mam.”

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She continued: “People always think it won’t happen to them, I was one of the many people that thought that, but it does happen”

Sue is still regularly checked for cancer every three months. “Although I’m clear, it is still a worry every day.”

“I never thought I could live without cigarettes, I thought I needed it when I was sad, I thought I needed it when I was happy. You know what? I don’t need cigarettes. I am a non-smoker now, and I don’t even think about them,” Sue said.

Sue’s advice for people wishing to quit is to never give up. “It may be hard but never stop trying to quit. It’s really worth finding something to take your mind off it - I do cold water swimming. It’s a hard addiction to quit, but it can be done. There is help out there.”

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Fresh launched the Smoking Survivors campaign on Monday, June 19.  Sue is one of two women diagnosed in their 40s, alongside 57-year-old Cathy Hunt from Durham, who are behind the campaign, telling their stories in order to help others to understand the devastating impact smoking can have.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Cathy and Sue are incredibly brave and inspiring people. Their only hope is to prevent more families in our region from going through the worry and the pain from smoking that they went through. This campaign gives them and others like them a voice to share their lived experience.”

Sue Mountain is urging smokers to quit as part of a campaign by Fresh.Sue Mountain is urging smokers to quit as part of a campaign by Fresh.
Sue Mountain is urging smokers to quit as part of a campaign by Fresh.

Ailsa continued: “Their stories are personal, but they are also the story of so many families across the North East and the UK. Most people who smoke get addicted as children and try to quit many times. Sue and Cathy have suffered greatly because of tobacco but they are now living every day glad to have put smoking behind them.”

Fresh are urging smokers to visit the FreshQuit website for tips, advice and support.