Last week, my partner came down with the flu. For a week, he rolled through the typical symptoms – sore throat, congestion, fever and fatigue. I did my best to nurse him back to health, doing the typical things – wrapping him in extra blankets, feeding him chicken soup, encouraging him to rest and soak in hot baths, all the while hiding behind cleaning products, sanitizers, an extra supply of vitamin C and a face mask. But partners share everything, and in spite of all my best efforts, I was not able to avoid the same fate. (https://www.creakyjoints.org/monster-escapes/)
Every season, people flock to the local health unit or the doctor’s office to get that important vaccination to protect against the annual virus. This year’s flu has been a tough beast to tame and it trumped our tenuous efforts to suppress its power. Those of us struggling with arthritis or any other autoimmune disease do everything to protect ourselves from the onslaught of cold and flu season, especially if we are on those medications that compromise our immune systems. Arthritis is a tough ogre in itself, without the extra burden of head and chest congestion. It can be hard to protect ourselves once it’s in our home, and especially challenging if you have a significant other or live in close quarters with someone – it’s a pretty safe bet that some point in time, you’ll both have the task of struggling with a bug.
It began with the customary sore throat, a vexing irritation clinging to the back of my oesophagus, teasing me, making me wonder when the rest of the symptoms might strike. I grappled with my usual fatigue, and increased flaring in my joints. I couldn’t tell if my RA was the culprit, or the virus but it didn’t matter, because I realized I’m more than equipped to deal with it. RA has trained me well in dealing with flu and cold. I’m already used to managing the onslaught of sore swollen joints, body aches and pains, roving fevers, strange rashes, even the odd scratchy throat at the hands of inflammation. I know all the tricks to relieve them, because I’ve been implementing them for the last few years. I don’t feel as glum and powerless as the chronically healthy sometimes do at the hands of the flu, because life has given me the tools to handle the misery. Of course, if I had my choice, I’d stomp it out like a shoe on an ant (sorry ant).
Now I’m entering the first stages of congestion, but it’s slight, so slight, it could almost be mistaken for the beginning of seasonal allergies. My clear voice has dropped an octave, giving me a husky quality I like to call sexy. So far, that’s all there is – almost nothing in comparison to the typical nonsense of arthritis – but I’m not pushing my luck. Last week, my partner was confined to the house to battle his chills – this week it’s my turn and I will bear it in the same way I bear all my trials with arthritis. I have all the comforts of home – a heated mattress pad, warm blankets, a caring partner, good books to read and the strength of my warrior nature to push me through. I’m down but I’m not out.
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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.