Seagulls have nested peacefully on our building’s rooftop for several years. I wake to their haunting cries, I feel the crisp ocean air, and smell that hint of brine. Each call is distinctly different – they cry when the clouds crowd in, they coo and laugh to their fledglings, they squawk out warnings and messages to the flock – but there’s always one distinct call when the predators fly overhead. It’s a shrill wild sound, a call to arms that spreads throughout the flock and carries into the sky. For years the gulls nesting on our roof have had peaceful summers, but lately eagles have moved into the territory and now it’s a daily fight for survival.
Summer has always been my season of wellness. It is my time to step out of the shadow of RA, but this year, it’s been a bit rocky. Just as the eagles have invaded gull territory, RA is the predator that has invaded my territory, and like those frantic seagulls, I find myself always chasing it away. The beginning of June can be unsettled on the west coast, but this year seems to be particularly turbulent. It has been a month of erratic weather – sunny mornings changing to stormy afternoons, blustery winds, the odd pocket of rain, and a clinging humidity in the air. A stormy season provides the perfect condition for RA to thrive in me.
There is always talk of no medical proof that weather has anything to do with flares, but then how do we explain an increase in migraines when the pressure changes? Wouldn’t the same principle apply to the whole body? If our bodies are composed of approximately 60 percent water, wouldn’t we shift and flow with the rhythm of the earth, be pulled by the moon, be calmed by the sunlight? And just like the ocean, wouldn’t we become turbulent under stormy skies? This is one of the many challenges we face with RA. It changes as quickly as the weather and we never know what will come.
The storm followed me into July, teasing me with the warmth of the sun behind thick puffy clouds; the warm and wild winds blow them away, offering me a brief glimpse of a stunning blue sky before they roll back in again, gray and somber. In the muggy twilight, I sit on my patio listening to the hummingbirds’ chatter and the lilting sounds of jazz wafting through someone’s open window. A tepid breeze breaks through the oppressiveness, sweeping over my joints, and I feel a change coming.
I know it won’t be long before the tables turn – my flares will subside, my skin will be cool to the touch, morning stiffness will decrease. I keep on with my treatment and self-care routine. I exercise, I distract myself with hobbies, friends and family. I swim, I do yoga, I focus on my life, moving forward every day, pushing aside the turbulent presence of RA. Soon enough, I will be soaring through the open skies.
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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.