Fourteen-year-old Shawn was only trying to make friends and fit in at a new school when he started sneaking cigarettes from his father. But more than 30 years later he was still smoking, and the damage to his body was taking its toll.
Shawn was in his mid-forties when a chronic cough and laryngitis turned out to be throat cancer. He endured 38 radiation treatments and hours at the doctor’s office and finally quit smoking—but doctors were unable to save his larynx. He now has a stoma (opening) that allows him to breathe and a laryngeal implant that allows him to speak. As someone who enjoyed singing and playing the guitar, Shawn says the loss of his natural voice was "heartbreaking."
"I went through 3 years of treatment and recovery," says Shawn, who is now 51. "I have to get my implant changed every 90 days, and it’s not fun."
Shawn wants others to learn from his experiences through the Tips From Former Smokers campaign. He hopes his story will help others quit smoking.
"It’s a rough road," he says. "I wouldn’t like to see anyone else go through what I’ve gone through, because it affects you the rest of your life. You have a choice. Look at me and you see where choosing to smoke leads. Is this the choice you want to make?"
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- CDC/Office on Smoking and Health
4770 Buford Highway
Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3717