Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. I love the blushing colors of the trees as they prepare for the oncoming winter, the cool mornings glittered with frost, the brilliant blue skies on clear days and the eerie mists that float low over the ground shrouding the night in mystery. It’s the time of All Hallows Eve and the transition into shorter days and longer nights, lit by the pumpkin glow of harvest moons.
My body transforms as well, lifting itself out of the comfort of mild summer days and dipping its toe into the frosty waters of a colder season. The mornings are a little more difficult, the joints a little stiffer. The air holds a new nip that reminds me that the soothing dry days of summer are behind me. My hands are a little hotter, my fingers more swollen. There are more hot baths, more nights with the heated mattress pad, a little less activity. Motivation for exercise is a more challenging, even though it’s more necessary than ever to keep my joints limber and warm. But even in the face of increased symptoms, I am not distracted from enjoying the harvest of my life.
I had the pleasure of contributing to a book on living with rheumatic disease with a dynamic group of advocates and autoimmune warriors. This book was released on October 12, for World Arthritis Day. It was a milestone moment to hold a book containing my words and story. I started my writing journey five years ago and I have enjoyed every step of the creative process from editing, rewrites, rejections and publications. I am looking forward to continuing with more ambitious projects. One of those ambitious projects is returning to my dance roots by having the incredible opportunity to choreograph a holiday pantomime for a local theater company. This project is extra special to me because partial proceeds from this show will go to Cassie and Friends Society, an organization that supports children and families living with juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. I can only imagine how different my childhood would have been if I had to grow up battling rheumatic disease. These kids have more strength and stamina then I could ever hope to achieve, and yet by taking on this task, I hope to show them that anything is possible. I never thought I would be able to return to my dance world and yet, here I am teaching routines to a group of talented kids and adults as if I’d never left the studio.
In the darkest part of the year, I am encouraged by fissures of light. My family, my friends, my work life, my partner, my advocacy community and my creative world are the forces that inspire when the clouds close in and dark rainy days bog me down in the mire of disease. I used to think RA made my world smaller, but every year I look back and am surprised by the infinite trail I’ve left behind. Each step forward, no matter how small, leads me to another door and coaxes me to push just a little bit harder to open it.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy All Hallows Eve – may you find the light of hope and wellness in the transformation of a new season.
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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.