Managing arthritis can sometimes be tricky. Wellness changes from day-to-day and there’s no predicting how we’re going to feel. I can have three glorious days of no pain, and then wake up on the fourth day feeling like a truck ran over me during the night. This is frustrating because it ambushes my plans – housework won’t get done today, my night out might well be cancelled, even work will take a hit either due to my physical absence, or in most cases, my mental absence.
There are many things can trigger a flare and the triggers are different for everyone. This is the pattern of disease, and whether we like it not, we need to compile our own strategies to move forward and leave those flares in the dust. Life doesn’t stop just because we do. Just as our disease is unique to us so are the tools we choose to manage it.
I’ve touched on tips and tricks in many of my posts, however, I wrote this one on a rainy day in the midst of a summer drought, when one of those unexpected flares hit. Summer is usually my reprieve from the wicked inflammation of arthritis, but often a sudden shift in the weather can light up my joints like a wildfire.
Days Like This:
I heard the pitter-patter rhythm hitting the pavement, the swish of rubber tires through pooling water, the splatter of drops against the window under a sombre light. I could almost hear the hiss of moisture kissing the parched ground, dressing the leaves and flowers in shimmering beads of liquid. It’s the first time in almost three months the blue sky has been colored with the pewter of a moist winter sky. I’ve watched our greenery dwindle into brittle wasteland, feeding the fires as they sweep the waterless forests. I have been bound by smoky days and nights, highlighting the hidden fragility of my disease. Forecasters promised respite from the arid climate and we patiently waited beneath bloated clouds teasing our thirst. On the first morning of rain in over three months, I lay in bed listening to the forgotten music of raindrops, bogged down by swollen joints filled with precipitation.
It was a flare typical of a wicked damp winter, except it arrived in the midst of a summer drought. I had not had one in almost three months. The burn of RA had withered under a rare season of extreme heat until plump clouds arrived to deliver the chill of a coveted cloudburst and ease the burn of Mother Nature – in a cruel twist, the cool rain ignited my joints like kindling to a flame. But I haven’t battled this disease over the years without learning how to take advantage of the unexpected.
I have developed my own strategy for days like this – my own arthritis emergency kit, if you will, consisting of books, movies, hot water bottles, notebooks, fragrant teas, Epsom salts, aromatherapy and a snug blanket. When an arthritis flare brings my hectic world to a halt, it does not stop me from discovering the charming luxuries life has to offer. I accept it as the break my body is telling me I need. I get to pause and take pleasure in the small things I can’t always fit into my usual routine. I take this time to get lost in stories I will one day write, to escape into the opulent lives of characters on the screen, to savor the sweet flavor of my tea, to lounge in tepid waters laced with a heady scent while the rain freshens the steamy earth. It is part of the new rhythm of my life with RA. A flare day is my day to recharge, to remind myself that life is a tenuous dance and when the rhythm changes, I must be ready to follow its lead.
There will be days like this. There will be days when arthritis kicks me in my proverbial rear. I can’t avoid them, I can’t even predict when they will happen, but I can appreciate them for what they are – a reminder that even when the clouds come in, there are still ways of finding small pleasures in a life with arthritis.
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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.