Eight years ago, Susan Deesing of Barnesville made a commitment to her family that included a major change in her lifestyle. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made.

Susan knew the dangers of her one pack-a-day smoking habit and considered quitting, especially after the death of her father from pancreatic cancer. Her father's illness and death even convinced her to volunteer with the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society, selling daffodils each Spring. A former co-worker made a bet with her. If Susan could refrain from smoking for an entire evening and night, he would buy her lunch the next day. She earned the free lunch, but immeditaley lit up after winning the bet.

But the motivation to truly quit just wasn't there. Despite pleas from her daughter, Bernadette Buffington, she just wasn't interested in actually kicking the habit. Susan jokingly made the offer to quit, If Susan were to present her with a grandchild. Bernadette was determined to hold her to that promise after son Nicholas was born Oct. 27, 2001, wanting to ensure her child wasn't exposed to the deadly carcinogens found in cigarettes, even if it was second-hand.

Susan was determined nothing would stand in the way of her spending time with that grandson. With such powerful motivation as an aid, she chose Nov. 19, 2001, the day of the Great American Smokeout, to quit smoking cold turkey. It's a decision she has never regretted.

This year marks the 34 anniversary of the smokeout. The American Cancer Society encourages smokers to use the date as a stepping off point. This year's theme is "Less Smoking Leads to More Birthdays." Gary Pincock, CEO of the ACS' Pennsylvania Division, says "Quitting smoking is tough. Most smokers have to try several times before quitting for good. The ACS offers a variety of effective resources, ranging from online tips and tools to personalized telephone coaching by trained specialists. Using the Great American Smokeout to map out a course of action will help them quit and, in turn, stay well and celebrate more birthdays."

Local Community Cancer Control Specialist Judy Hoppes encourages anyone thinking about kicking the habit to "visit the ACS website, www.cancer.org/ GreatAmericans, or stop by the local office, 33 W. Ridge St., Lansford, for tips and tools to use towards a smoke-free life. The website offers downloadable desktop helpers, user friendly tips and a Quit Clock, all designed to help people quit smoking," encourages Hoppes.

"Having a long term plan can help, but motivation and determination are the most important factors to quitting," offers Susan. "I wanted to be able to hold my grandchild, to babysit, to celebrate birthdays long into the future." Susan now has another motivational factor, granddaughter Rebecca Buffington. Although her extended family lives in Spring Glen, Susan has the joy of spending most weekends, as well as holidays and vacation time, with her grandchildren. She also keeps busy with the Relay for Life Committee and Weight Watchers, a group she joined to help keep off those pesky pounds.

When she quit in 2001, Susan kept one cigarette, prominently displayed, as "an emergency stick." She never needed it. The "stick" was tossed in the trash on the one year anniversary of her quitting. Along with her grandchildren, her mother's fight against lung cancer provided the determination to continue her fight. "Watching my mother die of lung cancer just re-inforced my determination to never smoke again. The last thing she said was how proud she was of me for quitting. That's strong motivation."