PLATTSBURGH — Sandra Baker’s breathing problems had become debilitating.
Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and asthma, the Plattsburgh woman had gotten to the point where anxiety over the fear of not being able to breathe controlled her life.
“It affects you and your ability to breathe,” Baker said of her medical conditions following a battle with lung cancer in 2000 that resulted in a partial loss of her lungs.
She defeated the cancer and has been in remission ever since, but it has only been recently that she has taken a more aggressive approach toward her breathing issues by signing up for the CVPH Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.
“This program is wonderful,” she said of the eight-week exercise and educational service, which concentrates on learning about pulmonary disease and on combating the effects the disease has on a person’s ability to breathe easily.
“It’s designed to help improve your respiratory system,” Baker said, emphasizing her new-found understanding of the way she can help control the impact of COPD and other breathing issues. “The exercises are designed to help keep you going.”
COPD is a lung disease that is typically caused by damage to the lungs over a long period of time, often as a result of smoking. Tobacco smoke and other irritants damage and destroy fibers that carry air to the lungs.
Baker had smoked for 35 years before her bout with lung cancer, but her colleague in the rehabilitation program, Jane Irwin, was not a smoker and believes her problems with COPD are connected more to her career in beauty shops at a time when chemicals were not as controlled as they are today.
“I would get to a point where I just couldn’t breathe,” said Irwin, a Peru native, of her growing respiratory problems. “It was an awful feeling, not knowing if you were going to be able to catch your breath.