A woman in a swimsuit standing in front of the sea

Sue’s Story

“To tell your family you have cancer because of smoking and to see the shock and the worry on their faces is so hard. My daughters’ thought they were going to lose their mam.”

Mum of three and sea swimmer Sue Mountain, 58, from South Shields,  started smoking aged 11. She underwent laser treatment aged 48 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer in 2012. The cancer then returned in 2015 and then again in 2017 but she is now cancer free.

Sue said: “When I started senior school, you were the odd one out if you didn’t smoke. You felt big and my school meal money went on cigarettes. At that age, you never think you’re going to end up addicted or how smoking is going to ruin your life.

“When I was happy. I smoked. When I was stressed, I smoked.  You lie to yourself and say you love smoking but you need the cigarette – that’s the addiction. Over the years I think I probably spent over £100,000 on cigarettes… I could have bought half a house with that or seen the world instead of getting cancer.

“Around 2010, I noticed I always had a dry throat and that my voice disappeared in the summer. Initially, I put it down to the change in weather but it continued to happen and in 2012 my partner at the time told me to get it investigated.

“I honestly didn’t think it was anything serious, so when I got diagnosed with early-stage laryngeal cancer I was devastated.

“To tell your family you have cancer because of smoking and to see the shock and the worry on their faces is so hard. My daughters’ thought they were going to lose their mam.

I immediately gave up smoking and underwent laser treatment, which was successful and I was thrilled to be given the all-clear. Then, about a year and a half later, I started smoking again due to stress.

“I smoked on the sly, hiding it from my three daughters as I knew they would be really upset that I had started again. Unfortunately, they found out and I promised to stop, but I didn’t.”

In 2015, Sue’s cancer returned.

Sue explains: “I had laser treatment and got the all-clear again, but I didn’t stop smoking. It had taken control of me.

Woman sanding in front of the sea in a swimsuit

“Then in early 2017, I noticed my voice was getting even worse. I went to see my consultant and was told cancer has returned again, but this time it was more aggressive.

“I finally managed to quit just before my radiotherapy started. I had five days of treatment for four weeks and it was tough. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, I had a tube down my throat for three months. I was so weak all I could do was lie on the sofa.

“My voice has never been the same since radiotherapy. But I’m fortunate, I am alive and feeling fit and I never think of going back to a cigarette. Smoking did its best to take my health and my life but now I feel like I have taken my life back.

“I don’t want one person going through what I did. You can’t ever stop trying to quit because smoking will catch up with you sooner or later. You’ve got to keep trying to quit. It’s worth it.”