Before and After RA : Celebrating Life

We all bury parts of our lives that no longer serve us – old relationships, old friendships, painful breakups – sometimes we do it deliberately, other times it’s just a natural process we don’t even think about – but let’s not bury those accomplishments and experiences that made us who we are. It’s true, we may not be able to go back and live that same life, to repeat those experiences, but the life we lived before RA is not gone. The past, our memories, our accomplishments are the core of our being, they are like the trunk of a tree. From that trunk, we can branch out in different directions.J.G. Chayko – CreakyJoints Canada.

My life before Rheumatoid Arthritis was beautiful – in all its incarnations – whether I was celebrating a success, dealing with a loss, or rebuilding after a failure, there was always something precious that came out of my circumstances. I didn’t always see that beauty until later, but it was there. And this awareness of my life did not change with the onset of RA. In fact it made me understand something that I’d always known, but could never quite capture.

There is an implied narrative that we should grieve our old life, the life we knew before chronic illness, and while I understand it’s necessary to take time to reconcile the two lives, I don’t think we should exist in that state for perpetuity. We should take the time we need to pick up the pieces, scream, yell and cry, but then we should begin the work to restructure a different existence – because the truth is, what we’ve done in the past is not gone. It’s always with us, imprinted in our bodies, in our memory, and nothing can ever take it away. So while I worked my way through a new life with chronic illness, I learned to embrace and celebrate the time before rather than grieve it.

Everything we did in life before chronic illness is always with us – so let’s not bury those achievements and moments. Let’s embrace them, make them a vibrant organism that exists inside us, that will give us the strength and courage to move forward and find a unique way to keep those aspects that we used to define ourselves with alive. Rheumatoid arthritis or any other chronic illness doesn’t change who we are – they change the background – but the background has always changed. We’ve always gone through changes in life and we’ve always had to adapt to new guidelines. Living with RA should be no different.

In my essay for CreakyJoints Canada I talk about celebrating my life before RA and finding a new path by honoring what came before it.

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About me

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.