Wigan widow: Don’t be the 1 - quit smoking before you die!

Val Fenton with a photo of husband Keith
Val Fenton with a photo of husband Keith

A widow has issued a stark warning to Wiganers about the dangers of smoking, as a new survey revealed most people underestimate the danger of their addiction.

Val Fenton lost her beloved husband Keith to lung cancer three years ago after a long-term smoking addiction.

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Keith died at his home in Appley Bridge just a few weeks after receiving his diagnosis - devastating Val, their two sons, daughter-in-law and their young granddaughters.

Val recalled: “Keith had a cough which we were always nagging him to go to the GP about it but I guess it was just bravado that he didn’t do anything about it. However, in early 2015 he’d started to feel quite poorly and one Thursday in April he just collapsed in the bathroom.”

A few weeks later at Wigan Infirmary, the couple were told that a large tumour had been found in Keith’s lungs and he was to be referred straight to The Christie for radiotherapy.

Unfortunately, as Keith was so unwell, the treatment was not effective and he was sent home to be comfortable in his final days.

He died three days later, surrounded by his family.

A heartbroken Val said there was a huge hole in her life with Keith missing.

“It’s like you’re trying to keep busy, to get involved. But then you realise that your partner has gone, that your soulmate isn’t there anymore,” she said.

“After Keith died, I saw a young girl of about 12 or 13 in the street with her friends smoking,” she added.

“I just had to tell her not to smoke anymore, that my husband had just died from cancer. I was like someone on a soap box, I felt so raw. I was treading carefully because she was so young but I bumped into her later on and she said she wasn’t going to smoke anymore. I was happy with that.”

“I was shocked that the odds were one in two, I just didn’t realise. Smoking is terrible; what it does to families; what it costs the health service. I’ve seen the effects first hand and would urge anyone who is smoking to think about quitting. There’s help there for you.”

Her plea for awareness came as part of a new NHS campaign to warn smokers in Wigan and across Greater Manchester that they face a one in two risk of being killed by their addiction - some in their early 40s.

The hard-hitting campaign, called Don’t Be The 1, was launched by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

It starkly highlights the devastating effects of addiction on Wigan smokers and their families. Nine out of 10 smokers reportedly underestimate the risk of dying of a smoking-related disease.

However, the campaign also reassures the region’s 393,000 smokers that there is plenty of support to help them quit, cutting the one in two odds straight away.

For more information, visit dontbethe1.tv

Local statistics

More than nine out of 10 smokers underestimated the one in two risk of dying of a smoking-related disease;

61 per cent of these estimated the risk of dying from smoking as one in 10 or less;

Nine out of 10 found the true statistic of one in two worrying;

85 per cent of smokers say that loved ones worry about them smoking;

82 per cent of smokers wish they had never started;

Only one in 10 smokers said they don’t want to stop smoking.