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Breathe Easier: These lung cancer survivors have found a way to breathe again

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Breathe easy, my friend. Sounds like easy advice, right? For lung cancer survivors – not so much. It can actually be one of the toughest parts of their day.

That’s why Karen McDonnell, her team of researchers at University of South Carolina, and Upstream Center in Columbia developed a program specifically for lung cancer survivors.

The purpose of the program is to teach strategies to lung cancer survivors and their families to enable survivors to reduce fatigue, stress, and difficulty breathing. The free course lasts for 8 weeks. Each class is two hours and includes breathing exercises, stress reduction meditations, gentle movements like chair yoga and discussions.

“What’s most problematic for people and most frightening is the shortness of breath,” McDonnell said. “We teach breathing practices and strategies for stress management.”

The founders at Upstream — Jemme Stewart and Hilda White — help lead the sessions, which each have different themes. Themes include “Breathing Exercises” or “Improving Your Sleep.”

McDonnell said the initial findings suggest the program has a significant effect on stress, fatigue and sleep.

And the proof, she said, is in the testimonials – including the story of 61-year-old Anthony Bookman.

“I’m not a betting man, but I can tell you my life has completely been changed,” Bookman said.

Bookman is a two-time cancer survivor. He was just re-diagnosed again earlier this month. He said you’ll soon be able to refer to him as a 3-time survivor.  “I know I will come out victorious,” he said.

Bookman has one lung left after doctors removed one during one of his fights with cancer. And because of Breathe Easier, he says he is able to operate without an oxygen tank.

“They work with me from my head to my feet. I think different, I breathe different, I eat different. I interact different,” Bookman said. “Through the exercises they taught me, it’s just to slow down and breathe. I can breathe through my nose, through my mouth. It helps me to slow down without being totally dependent on oxygen.

Again: the course is free! The next cycle of Breathe Easier begins on May 3rd. If you (or someone you know) would like to register, contact Dr. Karen McDonnell or David Gallerani by telephone: 803-777-9735 / 803-777-9866 or by email: Galleran@mailbox.sc.edu / Karenkm@mailbox.sc.edu.

By Sam Bleiweis, Anchor/Reporter, WIS-TV

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