Ever since James Alladrice lost his wife to small cell lung cancer in 2014, he’s wanted to quit smoking. His own cancer diagnosis — and a referral to Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Dependence Treatment Program — led him to reach that goal.
After experiencing difficulty swallowing and eating in 2017, James saw Joseph J. Wizorek, M.D., a thoracic surgeon who became James’s main point of contact once he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Wizorek referred him to Wilmot’s Tobacco Dependence Treatment program, where he met Patricia Mallaber, M.S., R.N., A.N.P.-B.C., C.T.T.S., a nurse practitioner who works in the program.
Together, they came up with a plan for reaching his goal. He would come in to see her monthly, and she’d check on him by phone. She also helped James get started with the nicotine patch.
“Surprisingly, I wasn’t as antsy as I thought I might be,” he says. "I think it was probably a combination of support and patches, and things just kind of flowed together.”
James received his diagnosis in June, and by August, he had essentially quit smoking, although it helped him not to think of it as such a big task.
“When a friend said, ‘Oh, you quit smoking,’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not smoking today,’” James says. Before he knew it, he’d gone days and even months without smoking.
August also marked the start of his cancer treatment. He had three rounds of chemotherapy with Marcus Noel, M.D., and then had a break from treatment before receiving five more rounds of chemo as well as radiation therapy with Haoming (Carl) Qiu, M.D., in October.
Then Jan. 22, 2018, James had an esophagectomy. Wizorek, his surgeon, removed a portion of the esophagus and stretching the stomach to create a new esophagus. James stayed in the hospital nine days, which proved difficult in many ways, particularly with abstaining from cigarettes.
“I’m just not using to lying around that much,” says James, who used the nicotine patch again while he was in the hospital.
Staying busy has been one strategy James used to stop smoking. He’s retired but goes hunting in the fall and helps friends with projects like building a garage or cutting firewood. He also found it beneficial to spend time around those who don’t smoke.
James had been smoking about a pack a day for the last 50 years so habits came into play, too. He gave up coffee — a beverage he’d always enjoyed with a cigarette — and he found new activities for after meals, times when the cravings would hit particularly hard.
“Either wash the dishes or vacuum the house or do something that would take my mind off what I used to do,” he says.
James is grateful for the care he’s received from his oncology team and from Mallaber, who provided support and helped him identify strategies to quit.
“Tears come to my eyes. They’ve all been great. Terrific,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
He reminds others trying to quit not to be afraid to accept help like he did and also to remember that only you have the power to make a change.
“It’s not easy. You can always come up with a reason to start smoking again. But you have to say ok, enough’s enough. It’s hard to put into words,” James says. “It’s just something you’ve got to kind of put your mind to it and roll with the flow. Realizing that there’s going to be ups and downs. You’re going to feel antsy at times and that’s when you’ve got to reach out to some type of support.”
Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Dependence Treatment Program is open to all Wilmot patients and survivors as well as their immediate families. Patients can get a referral from their oncology team. Those who are not Wilmot patients could learn about resources offered through the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Center for Community Health & Prevention.