Real Stories


Michelle Barthram died from lung cancer at the age of 48 - just a year after being diagnosed with the disease.

Up until her death, the mum-of-one from Birtley spent the last few months of her life trying to warn other people about the dangers of smoking.

Michelle quit smoking immediately after she was diagnosed with cancer, but by that time it was too late. She hoped that her story would help spare others the pain of losing someone they love to smoking.

Throughout her treatment, Michelle's courage and positive outlook was an inspiration to those around her.

Before she died, she spoke of her illness: "I was quite active and would walk the dog every morning before going to work. I always thought that I'd be the last person to be affected by smoking. To find out that I had lung cancer was truly shocking for me and my family. I never had imagined that my life could be cut short so quickly - it was devastating."

"I quit smoking the moment I was diagnosed with cancer. I still can't believe that smoking has done this to me.

"I wish I'd realised the damage that smoking was doing to my health sooner. I'd urge anyone who is thinking about quitting smoking to do it now for them and their family's sake."


58-year-old, Julie Erskine, from Slatyford in Newcastle, was urged to quit by her 13-year-old grand-daughter, Bethany. After many years smoking, Julie became determined to break-free from cigarettes, after a moving school poem on the dangers of smoking highlighted just how worried Bethany was for her nan's health.

Julie said: "My grand-daughter means everything to me. I knew that she didn't like me smoking, but it wasn't until I read her school poem that I realised exactly how she felt. I got really upset. It's not every day that one of your family members opens-up and tells you just how worried they are about your health. I want to be around for my family and I told her there and then, that I loved her more than cigarettes and that I would do all I could to stop."

Bethany, now a first year pupil at Kenton School, said: "Smoking is really bad for you. All of the nasty things inside cigarettes make you ill and give you things like cancer. It made me really sad that my nana smoked and I felt scared about her dying early. I love my nana and writing my poem helped me to say how I feel about smoking.”


Dad-of-one Colin Docherty, 57, from Sunderland, smoked for many years before his daughter Elizabeth begged him to stop.

Colin had double heart bypass surgery more than a decade ago and was diagnosed with COPD six years ago - despite suffering the symptoms of feeling breathless for much of his life.

Elizabeth, 19, said: "As a little girl I remember going into the hospital to visit my dad, after he'd had his double heart by-pass. I was only six at the time, so I didn't really understand what was going on, but I knew it was serious. Looking back it was a really traumatic experience seeing my dad looking so ill with all these tubes in him - and all because of smoking.

"Watching my dad go through all that pain and suffering has been hard to take. But even though all of the odds were stacked against him, he has managed to survive - I guess he's one of the lucky ones. His experiences just show how harmful smoking is to your health - he still has the scars to prove it!

"I'm really proud that he quit smoking when he did. If my Dad had kept on smoking, I don't think he would be alive today. I'm just happy that he's still here for me and will be around."


Have you or a loved one been affected by a smoking-related illness? Tell us your story - it could encourage someone to quit.

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