“The bright lights over the dressing room mirror illuminates my reflection. I perch on the edge of a chair and apply make-up, listening to the theatre coming to life. The stage crew thumps on the ceiling above me, tromping over the stage floor. The other actors bounce into the dressing room, giggling and laughing over some recent flirtation, and the house music creeps in through the speakers, mingling with the rhythmic murmuring of the audience. There is an odd nip in the air, and I shiver in my crimson lace dress. The stage manager flips the pages of her script, and her voice rings out with the anxious notes of a woman keen to present a first-rate show. The whispers of technicians, and actors reciting their lines dissolve in the high ceiling like a fine mist.”- Finding Nellie, An Excerpt by J.G. Chayko published in Emerge 19: The Writers Studio Anthology.
The above is an excerpt of a novel in progress about life on the stage. It is a brief and fleeting description of stage life through my eyes. If you’ve followed my journey over the years, you know I am an actress, writer and dancer living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. You might wonder what that means – how I live this artistic life with a disease that is constantly working to steal my mobility. It’s not easy but my passion and drive for a creative life is more powerful than my disease. That’s not to say I don’t have my challenges with RA. I do. It’s a constant battle, and that battlefield is lined with strategic manoeuvres that are constantly in motion – but there are always ways to find my way to back to the things I love, even if they don’t look the same. Discovering joy in a life with chronic illness will look different for everyone. I hope that you can find the little things that work for you.
In December I had the pleasure of chatting with Cheryl Crow, creator and host of the Arthritis Life Podcast. We discuss living a creative life with RA, how to honor the present, the power of saying “no”, and the importance of recognizing your own self-worth. Cheryl is an occupational therapist living with RA. She is a passionate advocate, helping people live a full life with programs and tools designed to navigate the physical and emotional challenges of living with arthritis. You can find her here at Arthritis Life – and you should.
I could do a write up about my strategies for living a creative life and coping with RA but this time I think I’ll give your eyes a break, and give you, dear reader, the option to curl up in a comfy space with a favourite beverage, to sit back, relax, and listen to a conversation about one aspect of life with RA on the Arthritis Life Podcast.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.