The chill of the evening illuminates stars in an inky sky; the hue of blinking holiday lights brighten the gloom of winter days; the morning bursts with the crimson rays of a rising sun; glittering snow coats the steely mountain peaks; golden leaves cling to ruddy branches; pine trees lounge in their emerald robes; cherry rainbows flicker in the dewy raindrops captured in the trace of sunlight – these are but a few of the amazing colors of our world.
Colors evoke emotions and energy. In the world of disease, colored ribbons are assigned as a symbol to generate awareness; many diseases share the same color, sometimes making them indistinguishable in the world’s palette. I can see a blue ribbon and arthritis comes to mind, but only because that particular illness is a part of my life – someone else will see colon cancer or Huntington’s disease. Pink speaks of breast cancer, but I’ve also seen it used for anti-bullying, alongside blue and purple. Causes and disease blend into the rainbow colors of our world, creating a beautifully chaotic finger painting. For me, one color can’t possibly represent the multiple aspects of life and disease – there are many colors that make up the palette of my life.
Red might be the angry inflammation in my joints, but it’s also passion, determination and drive. It’s the rays of the sun painted along the horizon, the burning embers of hot lava that build the foundations on our earth, the fire in my heart, the colour of blood and life.
Pink might be the flushed skin rash leftover from my medication, but it’s also hope, love, creativity, and friendship. Pink is the bloom in a young girls cheeks, the pallor of dusk, the warm glow of a geranium, and the creative energy generated living life with chronic illness.
Green is said to represent the state of a person’s health, and shades of green will surge and fade in my day with arthritis, but I see its verdant hue in the grass beneath my feet, in the new spurt of life poking through the soil, in the prospect of growth and new opportunity.
Blue might be the color ribbon associated with arthritis, but it is also the cooling sapphire waters of the tropics, a cerulean sky filled with possibility, the gentle wells of natural springs, the tranquil calm in a turbulent world, optimism and hope.
White is the color of our hospitals and the fair hue of our caregivers attire, but it is also, the untouched snow on a mountain peak, a bridal gown, a beam to light your path to a new beginning.
Black is the color of the unknown, burying the unpredictable temper of arthritis; but hidden in its coal shadow might also be found that elusive cure to strike it from our lives.
Purple is not just the color of bruises, but of power, bravery, ambition and desire. Purple colors my life with promise in the face of disease; it is the color of the warrior that comes forth to help us to be brave enough to live life on our terms. It is the changeling that adapts to any condition, teaching us to follow suit.
The next time I see the colored ribbons of disease posted to websites and walls, I will see the full palette that defines me. Along with the cheer and hope inspired by the holiday season, I will celebrate all the colors of my life. I hope you will too.
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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.