Glamour and success have new meanings for Myriam Leonardo, an Army Veteran who receives care at the Puerto Rico VA medical center. Glamour is now defined by good health while success is defined by five months of being smoke-free.
“I started smoking to look glamorous like a lot of women did in the 80s,” said Myriam. “In the movies and in advertisements, smoking was portrayed as being glamorous so I thought smoking made me look cool.”
Her on again-off again relationship with cigarettes began at 16 years old and continued until she became pregnant with her first child and successfully kicked the habit for 10 years before succumbing to the old cravings.
She had tried to quit in the past using nicotine gum, patches, and “everything except voodoo.” But after developing a nagging cough, persistent sore throat, and an unexplained tingling sensation in her fingers, she went to the VA for help.
“I got scared when the doctor told me I was on my way to causing permanent damage to myself,” she said. “He told me I had to stop and that made a lot of sense.”
As a doctor herself, Myriam understood the risks and potential consequences of smoking — lung disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. But her symptoms, the doctor’s warning, and counseling made the difference in her last quit attempt.
Despite struggling with cravings initially, Myriam’s mantra of “No hoy a fumar” (“I’m not going to smoke today”) and work with a smoking cessation counselor at the Puerto Rico VA has helped her to stay quit.
The doctor…told me I had to stop and that made a lot of sense.
“I don’t think I’ll ever go back to smoking,” said Myriam. “Today, I’m symptom-free and feel great.”
To help Veterans quit smoking and tobacco use, VA offers:
If you’re ready to quit, join the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21. Share the news by downloading a smoke-free VET badge
Learn more about these and other tools by visiting the Office of Public Health.