The word “advocacy” has many definitions – according to the internet it’s defined as “public support of a cause, backing of, promotion of, championing of, argument for, push for” etc.
This description doesn’t make advocacy sound very inspiring. It’s rather a dull definition of an advocacy life. It lacks the color of the genuine sincerity and vision that fuel an advocate of chronic illness or any other cause.
When I think of arthritis advocacy, I don’t think of any of these things. I certainly don’t think of myself as a champion of life with arthritis, I simply decided I needed to continue to live the life I’d begun to build – sure it had to bend and flex a little, transform into a new version of me, but the challenges and victories that arise are no less satisfying. It’s a foreign concept to some that those with chronic disease get up every day, go to work, look after their families, visit friends, travel and participate in activities – in all outward appearances, we still live a normal life. Granted it takes more energy for us to do these “normal” everyday things, but we do them – because getting up every morning and participating in life is a powerful conquest over disease.
I didn’t set out to be an advocate. I became an advocate quite by accident. I tumbled headlong into the valley of encouragement and support. I am buoyed by all the brave warriors that have come before me, and after me, by their fearlessness, determination, and indomitable spirit. The advocacy life is not just about living life with arthritis – it’s about living the best life I can.
Here is a bit of my journey in my latest post for Creaky Joints – The “Accidental” Advocate
“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” – William Ernest Henley
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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.