During high school, smoking was what all the "cool" kids were doing (or so Christine thought), and she wanted to fit in, so she began smoking at age 16. She became addicted and continued smoking for 28 years.
In 2007, at age 44, her life would change forever. After spotting a growth inside her cheek, which she thought was a canker sore, Christine went to see her family doctor. Her doctor sent her to an oral surgeon, who did a biopsy of the sore, and it revealed oral cancer.
During 2007, after 35 radiation treatments and chemotherapy, Christine seemed to be cured. But the cancer returned in 2008; this time surgery was her only option. Her third bout with oral cancer in 2009 was even more serious. She learned it had spread to her jawbone, classifying it as stage IV.
The numerous radiation treatments had already cost Christine her teeth and had extensively damaged her mouth. During a 10-hour surgery, the doctors had to remove half of her jaw. "I'm missing a quarter of my face. People stare at me all the time," she says. That doesn't stop Christine from being in the public eye and serving as a role model for quitting smoking or never starting.
Christine is now 49 and has been smoke-free for 5 years. She spends her time offering support for the Oral Cancer Foundation, where she's a board administrator and volunteer patient advocate. She also gives speeches about oral cancer and the dangers of smoking. "Tobacco is not cool, not cool at all! It almost cost me my life," says Christine.
Through the Tips From Former Smokers campaign, she hopes kids will learn that there are so many other things to spend their time and money on.
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- CDC/Office on Smoking and Health
4770 Buford Highway
Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3717