I watched the winter rains dwindle beneath the balmy rays of bright sunshine. The garden on my deck burst to life – newly planted sunflowers reached towards the blue, the lavender called to the hummingbirds and the heady scent of parsley demanded to adorn the wholesome recipes of warm spring days. In the spring everything changes – it is a season of renewal and rebirth, and for me, a new routine with RA.
The winter had been a turbulent one – not in the weather but in me. It became the season of RA. I had begun rehearsals for another show, and jumped into some new writing projects, both of which kept me busy for days on end. I was managing but managing was no longer enough. I had a life to keep up with, not just with my work, but with family and friends. Living it with pain and increased fatigue was not acceptable – I deserved to feel better. It seemed as good a time as any for my Rheumatologist to add a low dose of methotrexate to my medication regime and join the ranks of triple therapy.
And so begun my weekly injections. Little did I know that like a red sky in the morning, a spring storm had started brewing on the horizon, and the seeds of a flare had already begun germinating in the ripe soil of my joints – I had just begun to notice a slight reduction in my morning stiffness when in the midst of my busy life, it finally blossomed, puffing up my joints like the flushed rhododendrons bursting on the bush. It spread rapidly, blazing like the lightning fires consuming our parched forests, and lasted seven days. It was the most severe flare I had known. I lay in bed at night wondering if I might spontaneously combust. My rising CRP needed to be doused and I needed to get make it through another three weeks of performance. Only a few weeks after beginning methotrexate, my rheumatologist increased the dose hoping it would ease the rising inflammation.
Living with a certain amount of pain all the time makes it hard to distinguish when something has changed. I have mellowed in my life with RA – that’s not to say I accept it, I have simply grown used to how it works in my body. I can see the change in a new season but can’t always see a new beginning in my disease. I have grown complacent with the baseline of my daily pain, and sometimes it takes a dramatic presentation for me to recognize when it’s time to fight back.
As the days went on, my flare began to subside, and was eventually carried away with the remnants of winter on the backs of the wispy pollen permeating the air. The show is drawing to its close, and I am looking forward to a new resurgence in the lazy days of springtide. Whether it is triple therapy or the return of the balmy spring sunshine, I can detect another change in the air, another new beginning – and where there is a beginning there must be an end, and like every story in a life with RA, I’m hoping for a happy one.
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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.