10 Jul 2022
01 Aug 2022
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Hello! We are a group of ex-smoking friends and we thought this community might be the perfect place to share our story. Our wish is to pay tribute to a beloved member of our group, Carol Rita McDonald, who passed away on March 6, 2022, aged 75, as well as pass along some of Carol's many wonderful attributes that helped us all quit smoking successfully.
Hard as it is to quit smoking, as you all know here, success is much more likely when you have the support of others...others who have been there and others who are struggling along with you.
In the late 1990s, early in the years of social media, an online message board for quitters was born. Created by a gentleman named Blair in Ontario, the board became known affectionately as "Blairsville." Quitters from all over the world found the site, probably after a desperate "quit smoking help!" Google search. It was literally a life-saving discovery to find others in the same situation to commiserate, laugh, and learn with, taking the journey one step at a time alongside hundreds of others. There were few options in those early years of the internet and, although Blairsville is closed down now, it is exciting to see this Canadian Cancer Society community offering a similar refuge and supportive atmosphere for smoking quitters.
In 1999, eight new quitters joined the Blairsville forum within days or weeks of each other, all early in their quits and desperate for help. In Blairsville, we found people sharing tips and tactics for quitting. We found people having spontaneous parades in celebration of their 30 minutes, 30 hours, or 30 days of nicotine freedom. We found an app that measured and shared how much money we were saving by quitting smoking or the total length (often in miles!) of cigarettes, end to end, left unsmoked. Newbies would look on in admiration and respect of others who were days or weeks ahead in their quits and everyone would celebrate big when a fellow member became an Old Fogey (reached their one-year smoke-free anniversary). We met on the forum for a virtual campfire every evening where we relaxed, reviewed events of the day, discussed the trials we overcame, and encouraged each other.
We found one particularly active participant on the Blairsville message board: Rita (Carol had to use her middle name as Carol was already registered in the forum) from Victoria on Vancouver Island in BC. Rita was often the first to welcome a newbie, to offer an understanding and encouraging word, the suggestion to breathe, a meaningful quotation, the perfect way of envisioning your smoke-free future. Every evening, Rita would "bake" a virtual cake and present it to all members celebrating an anniversary, be it their one day or one-year landmark, mentioning each quitter by name, along with a personal comment. Everyone would join in, giving that pat on the back or hug to acknowledge these successes, as only a fellow quitter could appreciate. For several years after securing her own quit, Carol continued to spend many hours in Blairsville, helping and encouraging others to quit smoking. Her passion for learning, sharing, and nurturing could be seen in all aspects of her many lifelong endeavors.
The eight of us quitters formed a deeper friendship through the years, and Carol was at the heart of this group. We formed a weight loss forum, exchanged emails, had Zoom happy hours, shared family celebrations and tragedies, virtually travelled to each other's part of North America, and eventually many of us met in person. In her usual easy way, Carol brought us knowledge (from meditation, yoga, and breathing to nutrition, gardening, and cooking) and a positive energy and compassion for others that changed everyone in the group.
We think Carol would like nothing better than for us to share this story of victory over addiction with current day fellow quitters. She would encourage every single quitter and potential quitter to make this commitment to your health. She would assure you that her 23 years of freedom from smoking allowed her to live a longer, healthier, better quality life and she would wish the very same for you.
Our group decided to make a donation in Carol's name to the Canadian Cancer Society so that our friend can continue helping people.
With you in freedom from addiction,
Judy, Georgia, Mike, Linda, Kathy, Joanne and Amy