Jeannie Roberson Kansas
Sometimes Jeannie Roberson has to pinch herself to remember this is her new life. A healthy, happy, active, non-smoking life. It’s a complete turn-around from her lowest point six years ago struggling to breathe in the shower.
"That morning I didn’t know what was happening to me," Jeannie says. "My breathing went from bad to worse and my doctor sent me to the hospital right away. I had pneumonia and was showing signs of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). My doctor said if I didn’t stop smoking I would need oxygen for the rest of my life. I decided, right then and there, I was too cute and too young to haul around an oxygen tank. I quit cold turkey during my five days in the hospital."
Jeannie’s husband, Sean, was also a smoker. They decided to be successful long-term they both needed to quit. Learning the facts about tobacco withdrawal symptoms and reminding each other to think logically helped the process.
"It may sound funny, but we focused on the numbers," Jeannie says. "Sean knew he was going to have a cigarette craving about every three minutes. The goal was to get through those cravings for three days when our research showed the nicotine levels in his body would begin to decrease. We kept building on our goals. The next step was getting to three months without smoking. It wasn’t easy. But we kept plugging away together."
The couple felt great about their new smoke-free life. But Jeannie started to gain weight after she quit. She toyed with the idea of working out, but had never done it before. Her parents were both smokers and her dad died of lung cancer. Exercising was foreign to her.
Jeannie decided to start small by simply joining the YMCA in Wichita, Kan., and walking around the track. Eventually, she worked up to the elliptical machine. The more she worked out, the better she felt. Breathing became easier. In fact, Jeannie improved her lung function by 40 percent. Instead of displaying COPD symptoms, she now just has asthma – a palpable difference she feels with every breath.
"My resolve to quit smoking and the YMCA saved my life," Jeannie says. "The mind and body connection is powerful."
Jeannie now serves as the membership services coordinator at the same Wichita YMCA where she began exercising.
"When I quit smoking, it was like mourning the death of a friend," Jeannie says. "I had turned to cigarettes for 21 years when I was stressed, happy or sad. Thankfully I got over it and gave the ‘new me’ a chance. I’m never going back. I’m blessed to work at the ‘Y.’ Everything in my life has brought me to this point. I’m exactly where I need to be."
Every year in Kansas, 4,400 adults die because of their tobacco addiction and about 3,000 kids become smokers. Jeannie is currently working with the American Heart Association and Kansans for a Healthy Future to help in the fight to save lives in Kansas through tobacco prevention.