A 47-YEAR-OLD mother terminally ill with cigarette-related lung cancer has made an emotional video plea for North-East smokers to quit.
Michelle Barthram, from Birtley, near Gateshead, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of small cell lung cancer last October caused by years of smoking.
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After completing six months of gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, the mum-of-one is now sharing her story as part of the Don’t be the 1 campaign run by Fresh Smoke Free North-East to encourage others to quit to be around longer for their loved-ones.
She has credited her dog, Max, an eight-month-old French Mastiff, with helping her to stay positive throughout her treatment.
“Max has just made such a difference. He’s a reason to get up. I don’t think if I had Max, I’d have so much fun every day,” said Mrs Barthram.
“Sometimes it’s like he knows when you’re tired and he brings you his toys to play. He wants you to live life.”
She was about 13 when she tried her first cigarette.
“At the time, no-one really understood the danger. Even though I was smoking between 15 and 20 cigarettes-a-day, I felt fine. I always thought that I’d be the last person to be affected by smoking.
“My first thought was that the results must be wrong. I never had imagined that my life could be cut short so quickly. “I think my husband Steven has come to terms with the thought of me dying. But, it’s a lot harder for my daughter Natasha. Being diagnosed with cancer has brought us even closer together.
“For now I’m determined to live life to the full. I quit smoking the moment I was diagnosed with cancer. I’d urge anyone who is thinking about quitting smoking to do it now for them and their family’s sake.”
Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in the North-East causing more than a dozen types of cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease, and increasing the risks of diabetes, dementia and blindness.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “Michelle’s story has touched so many people’s hearts. She is an incredibly courageous person. We hope that seeing her story will make people think more seriously about quitting.”