“RA had not stopped my life – it simply cast it into a new shape allowing me an opportunity to reinvent it. It forced me to pursue ambitions that had been skirting the fringes of my life, waiting for me to give them my attention – and now I could. There is a learning curve to a life with chronic illness, and it takes time and patience to find our way.” – Finding My Own Way, J.G. Chayko
May is Arthritis Awareness month. It seems like every major disease has its brief moment in the spotlight, a month dedicated to raising awareness. Usually the first thing that comes to mind about RA awareness are the myths and conjectures. RA certainly has its fair share – it’s only for the elderly, it’s caused by bad lifestyle choices, it can be cured with lifestyle changes and pain medication, it only affects the joints, and my personal favourite: it’s the same as OA. These are just a few of the misconceptions that surround RA. It’s such a complex disease that it seems like the only way to understand it is to live with it.
Arthritis Awareness is not just about fact-checking. It’s about what is revealed through personal experience. It’s about how it feels to have RA, how we deal with disease, how we manage our daily life, why we turn down social invites, why we stayed home from work, why we’re tired, distracted and sometimes irritable.
Through our stories we can invite people to spend one day with RA – we can show them how it feels, the burn, the pain, the weakness, and the frustrations – we can tell them how it changed our life, what we had to give up, what we learned, and how we built a new reality.
Awareness is also about where we can turn for support. We can find it through our medical team, our family, our friends and the many online communities teeming with people just like us – people who are on the front lines of disease.
I had the pleasure of sharing my story with one such community – Finding My Own Way.
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Helen Keller.
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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.
How does it feel to me? It feels like falling when no one notices? If I fell and no one sees, did I really fall? I guess it depends on how I am feeling when I get up. Yeah, like that.
The important thing is that you always find a way to get up 😉