At the age of 58, Roger Hernandez was taking an assessment of his current health through the wellness program at the City of Thibodaux. After smoking cigarettes for 37 years, he felt he had done undeniable and irreversible damage—so he saw no point in quitting. But after visiting a doctor, he quickly learned that there was still time to reverse the effects. “At that point, I knew I wanted to quit but didn’t think I had the power in me to do it,” he said.
As the President of Thibodaux Playhouse, Roger is often in the public eye and spends most of his time face-to-face with members of the community. “I knew I smelled like smoke, and people shied away from me because of it,” he explained. “I’d have to take cigarette breaks at rehearsals and felt like I had to separate myself from the group because of my smoking.”
He was ready to quit, and he was determined for this time to be different. “I had tried doing it on my own a few times and knew I needed help,” he said. He visited Cardiovascular Institute of the South in Thibodaux for the first time to enroll in CIS’s Commit to Quit program. He was smoking almost a pack a day at the time.
Turning the Corner
A CIS Tobacco Treatment Counselor worked with Roger to formulate a personalized quit plan, including individual counseling, CIS provider visits and medication. He started with counseling and was prescribed medication in advance of his quit. However, before his scheduled quit date, he chose to pass up his regular tobacco-buying spot on the way home from work one day. “I just drove by, waved and never looked back,” he smiled. When his counselor called to check in, he proudly announced he had already began his quit, ahead of schedule.
Roger began this quit attempt with a more aggressive approach. “I decided for myself once and for all that I would no longer be controlled by a substance,” he explained. “This time, I would not accept failure.”
He took the prescribed cessation medication for only one week. He mainly relied on the counseling component of the program to remain committed to his quit. “My counselor prepared me for what changes I could expect in my mind and body as the poisons were leaving my body,” he said. “The whole team at CIS was very supportive.”
A New Horizon
Within just three days of quitting, Roger noticed his sense of smell sharpened drastically. Two months into his quit, he noticed he didn’t get winded as quickly. He also noted that the financial benefits of quitting were immediate and ongoing.
Now, Roger has been tobacco-free for about seven months. His cough has improved and will continue to improve over time, as will his overall health. Roger still has cravings, naturally. “After being a cigarette smoker for that long, I have to remind myself I don’t do that anymore.” He still has friends who smoke, but it does not bother him to be around them.
Roger said the best advice he can give to others is that it’s easier to quit than you think. “The biggest fear I had was what’s going to happen if/when the cravings hit,” he recalled. “But when I drove by the tobacco store on that first day, that was the hardest step.”
He encourages others to make the simple choice to quit. “Looking forward, it looks like a mountain; but looking back, it’s just a little pile of dirt. Why didn’t I do this before? It was so simple!”
As time passes, smoking is a mere memory for Roger. This animated, jovial soul is now excited to continue his work at Thibodaux Playhouse, as well as his seasonal job as Santa Clause! “Santa doesn’t have his pipe anymore!” he laughed. “It’s the best acting job.”
Roger did it, and so can you. Choose to make the change. “Do this for yourself, not because it is anyone else’s idea,” he said.
Learn how the Commit to Quit Program at Cardiovascular Institute of the South can help you with a personalized quit plan. Services may be available to you for free through the Louisiana Smoking Cessation Trust. Call 1-877-288-0011 or visit www.cardio.com/tobacco-free.