A cold, RA and the flu walk into a bar. The cold is usually easy to recognize, modest in his congestion and stuffy sinuses. He saunters by, unnoticed – he’s common. RA and the flu stand side by side; like Siamese twins, they are not easily separated. They both offer extreme exhaustion, fever, body aches and joint pains. They both give the impression of feeling like a car has slammed into your body, parading their symptoms in a similar way when they are first introduced. It can be difficult to distinguish one from the other; but don’t be fooled by RA’s masquerade.
It’s flu and cold season, and sometimes, when I am unwell for several days, I can’t figure out if my body is fighting a virus or the effects of an RA flare. RA likes to mimic the symptoms of flu, making it difficult to distinguish which foe your body is fighting. RA is a masked boarder, hiding in the body; she does not want to be discovered, because once she is, she runs the risk of being opposed and her plans defeated. She likes to slink through the body, elusive in her intrusion, fooling the innocent into thinking she’s a simple bug that will pass, all the while labouring on with her destruction.
RA first appears in the body like a flu; it’s important to pay attention to the little details. Is there prolonged stiffness and swelling of the joints? Does it seem different from flus you’ve battled in the past? Does the exhaustion seem excessive? Is it lasting longer than ten days? Does it disappear only to recur at another time? Even after a few years of living with RA, there are some days I can’t figure out what I’m up against. Do I feel unwell because it’s a flu? Or am I dancing with old lady RA at her private masquerade ball?
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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.