Finding my mental and physical strength during pulmonary rehab
How a 6-week program changed my approach to exercise for my PF
At the beginning of this year, I was told to start pulmonary rehabilitation to help with my pulmonary fibrosis (PF). I was prescribed 12 sessions as an outpatient, which would take six weeks (two sessions a week) out of my life. I kept putting it off, always making excuses that I was too busy and had other priorities that needed my utmost attention.
In July, however, I decided to get off my fanny and take the plunge.
Though rehab is known to improve pulmonary symptoms, I couldn’t help but think it’d be a waste of my time. What could I possibly learn from it? Even though I’m living with PF, I can still handle the simple task of breathing. These were my selfish and inconsiderate thoughts about this process, but I followed doctor’s orders anyway.
Allow me to share with you my six-week journey into finding my spirited body, mind, soul, and strength.
The rehab journey
I knew I’d have to prepare myself mentally so that I could be physically capable of finishing a session. I’m not an athletic person. I’d have to pull out the big guns just to make myself go. Despite my preparation, I wasn’t ready for what was to come.
My first week was exactly what I feared it’d be: the hardest week of my life. I couldn’t get my mind and body to work together. The harder my mind wanted it, the harder my body resisted. My lungs weren’t ready for this cruel shock to the system. On my first day, what was supposed to be an hour session ended after only 20 minutes.
My husband was allowed to be at my sessions, and it was nice having him there. His support gave me motivation to complete that first week, regardless of how difficult it was. And after that, each session was more challenging. I completed activities on the bike, stairs, treadmill, and elliptical machines. I also worked with leg and arm weights.
In my second week, I proved I was a contender to win an Academy Award for whiniest patient of the year. I continued to hesitate about going, making every excuse in the book to skip out on a session. I began to feel a buildup of annoyance over having to show up.
But once I got to the facility, I felt a wave of belonging as I saw others like me pushing themselves to their limits. I was inspired. When I started my program, I felt a rush. I wanted to do more, to push myself as the others were. In fact, I pushed myself so hard that my therapist began to worry. She asked me not to overdo it. But I wanted to take control of my body; I wanted power over my illness.
My third and fourth weeks demonstrated my physical stamina. I wanted to do more than I knew my body and lungs would allow. Thankfully, I was always provided with oxygen to assist me, and my heart and oxygen levels were constantly monitored. I’d be given five-minute breaks to drink water and have my blood pressure taken. My respiratory therapist was such an inspiration, and the whole support team was amazing.
The more difficult each session became, the more I pushed myself. I was always so exhausted that when I returned home, I felt the need for naps — and I never take naps during the day.
On my sixth and last week, I was excited to see the progress I’d made. I completed a whole hour of physical activity and felt much stronger. I was so proud of myself. I’d pushed harder than I ever had before, even before my illness. I was also motivated to continue my exercise; I knew I could take everything I’d learned and every inspiration with me. For once, my body, mind, and soul were content.
Since I’d been in such good hands at rehab, I wondered how I could continue that feeling of safety after I completed my program. Would the “normal world” accept me? I’ve never felt comfortable in a standard gym because I’ve always been overweight, and now I’d be bringing a disability into the mix while exercising without any manner of supervision. Would I panic? Would my anxiety creep up again?
Perhaps I’ll have a new tale to write about as I venture into this different world.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.