It’s 2:00 am in the morning, and the fan has been on most of the night. The temperature reads 26 Celsius (78.8 Fahrenheit) in our apartment. The balcony door is open in the hope that a smidge of cool air might waft up from the ocean and offer some relief. A few hours from now those temperatures will climb to a high of 34 (93.2 F). It’s unusual for us to have temperatures this high. We usually sit around a comfortable 23 C (73.4 F) with an ocean breeze to cool the burn. But these past few days, temperatures throughout our province are reaching record levels. The summer just punched its way through the ozone and wrapped us in a giant heat dome.
The warmer months are usually the months I thrive with RA. The heat has always been my salvation from the pain and stiffness, but I know it’s not that way with everyone. Some people experience flares from intense heat, while others, like me, heat up when the weather cools down. The summer and fall are where my joints are the happiest. These are the seasons that are least likely to have severe and/or sudden pressure changes (at least it has been that way in the last few years – who knows what future climate change may bring).
This heatwave, however, brings extreme danger in other ways – fires, heat stroke, sunburn, and dehydration. Every year the Okanagan Valley in our province has forest fires – some caused by humans, most caused by random lightening strikes. These are fires that come with a normal fire season, but with the increased temperatures, the risk of destruction is far greater. As much as I love a good hot sunny day, I have the skin of a vampire, and could suffer severe burns in the sun without proper protection. Sun hats and a high SPF sunblock is required for me even just for a 20-minute walk. Increasing my water intake will keep me hydrated and stave off headaches and faintness, as I don’t need any added health issues when already dealing with a chronic disease.
Exercise has been on hold the last few days, as we try to weather this extreme heat. I try to manage a few yoga stretches to keep my limbs happy, but I am staying indoors for the better part of the day. This heat, as much as my joints seem to like it, makes me feel a bit more lethargic than usual and disrupts my concentration. My husband and I haven’t even ventured out for our evening walks because even the twilight sizzles beneath a sunless sky.
I suppose these could be the lazy days of summer I had always heard about. The shade drips down over our patio in the late afternoons and sitting out there feels a bit like the sticky heat of New Orleans, especially with the sun sinking down on the horizon, leaving behind the silhouette of a tree dripping like Spanish Moss. Eventually our temperatures will drop down to more comfortable levels, but in the meantime, I’m making the best of it with chilled margaritas, cool baths, a good book and root beer floats. It almost feels like a vacation – except without the air conditioning.
Stay safe, stay cool, stay well.
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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.