Ex-smoker Glenna Herron blames herself for smoking-related health problems
Published 9:48 am Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Hidden behind the friendly smile and sparkling eyes of Glenna Herron are two chronic diseases — things she said she did to herself with the choices she made.
“I smoked two packs a day for 33 years,” Herron said.
She gave up cigarettes 17 years ago, around the time she was diagnosed with severe emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“This is something that will be with me the rest of my life,” Herron said. “I did this to myself. Even though the cigarette companies lied to us and didn’t tell us how addictive cigarettes were, they didn’t make me smoke.”
Herron retired from her job at Eastman partly due to her health problems
“I decided to retire as early as I could,” she said. “I didn’t know how long I was going to live, and I didn’t want to work right up until the day I died.”
Smoking affected many areas of her health, including her eyesight, Herron said.
“Smoking damages everything,” she said.
The breathing problems were the worst for Herron. She found herself having difficulty breathing even when she did simple things like walking.
“With any little exertion, you just feel like you’re smothering, and that’s scary,” she said.
Even laughter gets harder.
“Every laugh ended with a cough,” she said.
Herron goes to pulmonary rehabilitation therapy twice a week at a local hospital. As part of her therapy, Herron exercises using treadmills and recumbent exercise bicycles.
About 18 months ago when her therapist suggested exercise, Herron said she was surprised. “I couldn’t breathe,” she said, as she laughed. “How did they expect me to exercise?”
But little by little, Herron said she began to see improvement. “I can walk farther. I can walk faster,” she said. “Every time I, laugh it doesn’t end with a cough. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night coughing any more.”
Even though she sees improvements in her health, Herron said she knows she will never be completely free from the effects smoking had on her body.
“The emphysema does not get any better, but you can make what lung power you’ve got left better,” she said.
Her lungs are coated with scar tissue, Herron said, evidence of damage done from years of smoking. Every year, she must get new lung X-rays so doctors can monitor the damage and try to detect any issues early.
“My doctor said I have to do this until I’ve been quit for 20 years,” she said. “He said most things that are going to pop up happen in those first 20 years after you stop smoking.”
Putting down the cigarettes was one of the best decisions of her life, Herron said. “If I had kept smoking, I’d probably be dead,” she said.
It was also one of the most difficult decisions, she said. Herron tried to quit many times before she was successful.
“I knew I should quit, but I didn’t want to quit,” she said. “I had to get to the point where I wanted to quit. I came to the conclusion if I wanted to keep breathing I was going to have to quit smoking.”
Now, when she talks to others who smoke, Herron encourages them to quit and shares her story with them.
“I just try to encourage them,” she said. “It doesn’t do any good to preach at someone.”