They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab

And I was obliged to say yes yes yes. To something known as pulmonary rehab; a combination of education and physical exercise. Yep. My two least favorite things: thinking and moving.

So for two months, three days a week, I spent time at Inova Fairfax Hospital in both a classroom and a gym. When I first started rehab I was still working full time, making just getting to rehab a challenge in itself. At exactly 1:00pm, I would go down to the garage and hope that my car was not blocked in by several others. Screeching out of the garage right into midday traffic in downtown DC. After finally breaking free and making it over the bridge to Virginia, I had to zip around two different highways just to arrive at yet another parking garage. Wend my way up to the third floor where (and this is the cool part) we rehabbers had reserved parking.


But remember, I was still in my work clothes, and hadn’t yet eaten lunch. So duck into a bathroom to change clothes, plop down in the waiting room, and pull a Smuckers Uncrustable PB&J out of my bag. Yes they are intended for children and yes I was known to take them to work for lunch. Don’t judge. So by 2:00 I was where I was supposed to be. Of course by that time I was exhausted and wondering why on earth I still needed to exercise.

In the classroom we learned about the cardiovascular system, lung anatomy, and various types of lung diseases. When I say “we learned” I mean of course “they learned.” Because I don’t understand any of this stuff. I have a very limited understanding of my own lung disease, and that’s about it. But in class I had to look at a plastic model of the lungs in mock awe, pretending it didn’t totally yuck me out. It totally yucked me out. There was a class or two on nutrition, which I followed in rapt attention while eating my Uncrustable.


Then…then there was the gym. I’ll admit that it was cool because it was one-on-one instruction with various physiological physo-exercisists or some such specialty. What I know is that they were extremely knowledgeable about my physical condition (or lack thereof), my lung disease, and the equipment I was using.  And they came to learn, quickly, that I am a smart ass of epic proportions. The thing is, they are really good at what they do and despite my attempts to charm/annoy the hell out of them, and distract them from the task at hand, they plodded ahead and whipped my ass into semi-shape. Except for the times I was having a bad day and not well enough to exercise. In those few instances they took my sorry butt to the ER and dumped me there for a few hours to make sure nothing bad happened on their watch. If there is anything worse than exercise it is spending hours in an ER waiting to be seen by doctors who have never heard of PH disease.

We were a motley crew in the gym because we had to wear headbands with heart monitors and some people had oxygen and some of us had to modify various exercises so they were safe and effective. And some of us, mostly me, just look silly in a gym. We did get to listen to music while we exercised, and one of my partners in crime made an awesome soundtrack of breathing related songs, like “Every Breath You Take,” also throwing in Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” which became sort of our anthem.

But overall, rehab for me was of course just an opportunity to make new friends and socialize with people who had no choice but to spend time with me. There were seven of us in my class, but I also bonded with a few people in the class before me because I am me. We all still keep in touch and have had lunch several times since finishing rehab. Everyone has a different lung disease and other health issues, so we each face unique challenges but all have an awesome sense of humor and the ability to laugh at our predicament. Three of us still exercise together twice a week in a private facility with a trainer who is one of those physio-exer therapist type people. She monitors us and keeps us safe, and the hospital is just a mile or two away. And we still get reserved parking.


We had an official graduation, and one of my classmates brought cake. I love her for many reasons but also because, well, cake.


Unofficial awards were bestowed by another of my classmates, and my buddy and I received the Sonny and Cher Award for keeping the troops entertained. Proud moment.

So yes, I went to rehab. And now I’m hooked.

I am officially certifiable. No doubt.

I am officially certifiable. No doubt.

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14 Responses to They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab

  1. Pam Waits says:

    Your classmates were lucky to have you. I’m sure you made the experience more fun and memorable for all involved. I hope your treatment helps your body as much as your spirit!

    • Jill Foer Hirsch says:

      We all went in with a good spirit, it was fun to joke and laugh with everyone. One day one of the women and I were chatting in the waiting room and somehow got on the topic of what we would do if they told us we only had three months to live. We were cracking ourselves up talking about how awesome it would be to smoke and drink and whatever…and one of the nurses overheard us and never let us live it down. A couple of sick puppies is what she goodheartedly called us after that. In other words, my kind of people!

  2. Carol Ferenc says:

    So glad to hear you stuck with it and graduated! Stuff like that can be awful but it sounds like the crew made the best of a bad situation. And now you have a posse to lean on!

    • Jill Foer Hirsch says:

      Yes, despite my joking it was really a great experience and helped all of us feel stronger again, like we had a little control over our bodies again. Because we all have bodies that betrayed us big time!

  3. Someone found the perfect 2 songs for your guys. Your rehab experiences sounds like a funny tv sitcom…except the mandated ER sittings – but a lot of characters there, too (only I think that’s been covered by TV scripts already.
    Yep, you should write a script. Hey you’re qualified – there’s a certificate to prove it!

    • Jill Foer Hirsch says:

      Yes, my certificate qualifies me for full rights and benefits of something or other. The thing is, I already tried doing the script thing with my equally funny and bizarre cancer experience, and no one wanted to make a sitcom about breast cancer. I mean, go figure, right?

  4. I wish you had been in my class. It was not nearly as fun as yours was. The people, oh the people, were definitely not ones I would do lunch with. I don’t think they could get there. So glad you did this, Jill. It was the best thing I have done for myself. I hated every minute of it, but took away so much. So great that you have two other people to continue your exercise.

    Last week I had a PET scan and they thought they they had to refresh my memory and give me a new list of instructions. I cracked up when I read the last sentence. Don’t do any exercise for 24 hours prior to test. How many people have ing a PET scan do you think exercise? My reply was no problem.

    • Now I have a perfect excuse! I’m not going to ever exercise again because what if I suddenly need a PET scan? I mean, it happens. Wish we had done rehab together too. Love you! XOXO

  5. Took me back to when I had radiation treatment. The only good thing was that I got premier parking right outside the door. Ok, I abused it and used it for the semi-annual checkup too. After all I have the scars if anyone wants to see them! Kudos to you for doing rehab. Makes you a celebrity with bragging rights.

    • Jill Foer Hirsch says:

      Between you and me, I still have the rehab sticker on my car, and sometimes use the parking when I go for my clinic visits. I mean, fair is fair! I had no parking privileges when I was doing chemo, but watch someone try to steal a good spot from a bald lady at a hospital! So, I usually didn’t have too many problems…

      • When you tell me things like that I am so proud that we are sisters…kinda…sorta. BTW my absolute favoritest cancer doc is retiring this week and I am bummed. I cannot get a recurrence because I don’t know if I’ll trust anyone like I trusted him.

        • Members of the club no one wants to join. No recurrences! That’s an order. Sure it’s interesting and gives you great blog material, but remember there’s a downside too.

  6. Harriet Schneider says:

    So proud of you! You passed, got your certificate (proof that you passed) and now you don’t have to go to summer school!

    • Jill Foer Hirsch says:

      I like that I have lowered your expectations to this point. I stuck with something (anything!) and passed! And you were not once called to the principal’s office! You must be such a proud mom.

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