Speeding up as she hits the big 40

ONE FM 91.3 radio presenter Cheryl Miles, 40, successfully quit in April. Photo: The New Paper

She was only 12 when she took her first puff, and became a heavy smoker after turning 21.

At times, she was even smoking up to 30 cigarettes a day.

It took her almost 20 years to finally kick the habit, and she has never felt better.

ONE FM 91.3 radio presenter Cheryl Miles, 40, successfully quit in April.

On top of that, she will be taking part in the 10km category in this year's Great Eastern Women's Run (GEWR) for the first time on Nov 1. She has also been appointed an ambassador of its #RuntoLiveGreat programme, which encourages non-runners to take the first step towards healthier and better living and also commemorates her new smoke-free life.

"I remember feeling all kinds of mixed emotions - fear, excitement, hope, joy and trepidation. I cried after stubbing out my last cigarette. It had been my 'crutch' for so long and I was terrified of facing the world alone," she told The New Paper.

The effervescent DJ first tried a cigarette when she was 12, and in her teens, she would social smoke to "fit in with the cool crowd" and thought it made her "look older and more sophisticated".

After that, there was no turning back - not even when her health was affected.

Five years ago, she smoked despite having a bad cough, which developed into bronchitis. It took her about a month to recover from it.

"That health scare should have been my wake-up call but instead I smoked throughout," Miles said.

Her addiction intensified between 2012 and 2014, during which she smoked even more than her usual pack a day due to some "stressful events", sometimes up to 30 sticks a day.

She said she's "lost count" of the number of times she tried to quit over the years, using myriad methods like nicotine gum, patches and the drug Zyban.

CAVING IN

"I was never able to last longer than two weeks without caving in... and each time I failed at quitting I would smoke even more when I picked it up again."

She acknowledged that she eventually lacked the energy and stamina to get through her regular exercise routines. The turning point came when she experienced more severe health problems.

Miles recalled: "I started having chest pains, insomnia, shortness of breath and chronic back pain. I couldn't exercise or run without stopping to catch my breath. For someone who was a fitness instructor and professional dancer, I was very ashamed at how unfit I had become.

"I decided to quit because smoking was affecting every area of my life and I had run out of excuses to justify my need for a cigarette. It no longer was a source of comfort or a stress reliever, nor was it helping me stay slim."

Miles said the only method that has worked for her is Allen Carr's best-selling book Easy Way To Stop Smoking and also a related workshop conducted by local actress-therapist Pamela Oei.

She added: "The first 28 days were the hardest and also the most crucial. There may have been two occasions where I felt tempted to smoke due to emotional reasons. I remember feeling helpless...But ever since quitting, I had to learn to open myself up to people for help and moral support. It was quite a humbling experience as I am so used to doing things alone by myself with my cigarette as my 'companion'."

Indeed, she had new company during her uphill battle - old friends whom she had not kept in touch with and even ONE FM listeners left messages of support for her.

"Seeing how much stronger and faster I am at the gym, yoga, aerial hoop or even running keeps me motivated," she said.

Miles is also "extremely honoured" to be part of GEWR and looks forward to running the race.

"I'm turning the big 40 this year and instead of slowing down, my life has got more vibrant and exciting than it ever was in my 20s or 30s. I hope to encourage women my age that it's never too late to start a new lifestyle, from quitting smoking to starting a running routine."

So has quitting helped her love life?

Miles, who said she used to spend about $580 a month on cigarettes, said with a laugh: "Well I'm still single! But I am a lot more confident now that I don't smell like an ashtray...

I have not only got more energy to pursue exciting activities but more disposable income for travel and new hobbies like scuba diving!"

Shan Wee, co-presenter of their radio show The Escape Plan with Shan & Cheryl, even took their on-air partnership to the next level by buddying up with Miles for the #StepUpForAQuitter initiative by the Health Promotion Board.

On how he helped her, the DJ - who has never smoked - said: "I suppose my part was more about being sensitive that she might be a bit grouchier than usual in the studio every day! Previously I was a bit dismissive of her quitting, but this time round she was obviously more determined and I tried to be more positive and supportive than in the past."

And has Miles shown results?

"I would say she has more of a zest for life... and is overall a healthier, happier person," Wee said.


This article was first published on July 28, 2015.
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