June 13, 2018


SVHC: This month marks the one-year anniversary of when Doug, who was riding his bicycle, met Dustin who was outside smoking.  Call it fate, as these two just happened to be community members who routinely engage in the challenges that are sponsored by Seven Valleys Health 



A little background for new readers of this blog: Doug has made it his mission to stop and talk to strangers in the City of Cortland who are smoking to hopefully get them to quit and avoid the health issues that Doug has endured.  Doug usually starts the conversation, as he did with Dustin, by saying, "Can I show you my tongue?"  A cancer survivor, Doug has had a number of surgeries on his throat and tongue which is attributable to years of cigarette smoking. His most recent surgery involved the removal of a malignant growth on his tongue. Half his tongue was replaced by a piece of his wrist. This has greatly affected his speech. 


How Dustin began smoking is not a unique story.  He had a parent who smoked and was a teenager who thought it would be "cool". Now in his 30's, he had been addicted to smoking for over half of his life.  He thought about quitting every day, as he is an endurance runner and sports participant and smoking was greatly affecting his breathing.


Some of our SVHC challenges encourage participants to blog about their efforts. Doug entwined his biking blog with stories about "his tongue" and meeting new people, especially smokers. We noticed that he had met Dustin who was blogging at the same time and we made the connection. We asked Dustin if he was willing to endure a "public shaming" to get him to stop smoking and he agreed.  The Dustin and Doug blog was born! 


Over the course of several months, these two men became friends and agreed to continue to share their stories. Despite a few stumbles, Dustin continued not to smoke.  Doug ran successfully for the Cortland County Legislature.  The Mayor of Cortland recognized Doug for his various community efforts this past January, including this caricature. Dustin was present at the award.


 So here is their update one year later!


Doug: My mom is 98. I stop in to see her each day at Cortland Park Nursing Home. I think about how she has been able to keep going so long. I look at all the cards and letters she gets and I think she has created her own Blue Zone. You can google that if you haven’t heard about it. Making many friends and being connected has buoyed her up and kept her going. I try to do the same. There are so many people standing outside tied to their cigarettes. It must be lonely. I have to warn them. I think about the old advertisements: "Me and my Winstons"; "I’d rather fight than switch"; "Come up to the refreshing menthol of Kools";  Not cool. "You can take Salem out of the country, but" . . .


Dustin: Good morning, Today is my 1st year anniversary since i quit smoking, and I am amazed its been just that. 365 days is a long time, and was way too hard to comprehend in the beginning. Thankfully I remember a few one liners that helped me through: One day at a time, and progress, not perfection, are two that come to mind. Quitting smoking is the best thing I have ever done, and I want to make sure to thank Doug Bentley and Ann Hotchkin for pushing me into this fun challenge that I honestly never thought would work.


My life today is amazing. I'm not stuck on ANYTHING anymore. I stopped using any nicotine alternatives (patches, lozenges, gum) around the 6-7 month mark. I still continue to carry around the gum as a fallback, but can't remember the last piece I chewed. I can now go into the woods, do a race, or simply relax without the thought of "NEED" going through my mind. I'm breathing better, coughing less, and living more. Although I still feel I need to train harder and train more, my training has doubled this year too. I am signing up for harder and longer events, while pushing myself physically and mentally to new heights. There is nothing holding me back from my goals, and no excuses to use anymore.


I am struggling with anxiety from pushing my breathing, but know my weakness. I am working on it! 17 years of smoking with asthma doesn't just go away, so I have learned to lower my expectations, and push towards smaller goals. My family, friends, and support in this community have helped me when I couldn't help myself. There were numerous times when giving up would have been the easy solution, but for some reason I just kept going. I talk to others about my experience and  strength, and hope when the time seems right, ask for help when I need it. I keep busy. Addiction is tricky, and it never seems to completely go away. The triggers and urges creep up on me when I are least expect it. The difference: I know how to get through it. This too shall pass. If I can do it, you can too!


Dustin Sherman June 12, 2018.


PS- Congratulations Mom, Karin Valentine-Casolare. She quit September 1,2018













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