It has been a stormy beginning to 2018. The waves along the west coast are infused with a ferocious appetite, smashing against the black rocks as they charge towards the shoreline. Fat gray clouds bursting with cold rain provoke them, pushing their savage swells over the mountains of rock, and rousing the old lady from the chasms of the sea bed.
I felt invincible beneath the summer skies, their deep blue warmth subduing the old lady inside me until the arrival of fall. There was no gradual change in the season this year. One night was warm and sultry, with inky skies and twinkling stars; the next morning, a storm swept in off the Pacific turning everything wet and gray. It’s been that way ever since. My body tumbled off the craggy cliffs and burst into heavy flames. The flares I came to know were longer and more frequent.
Then came the flu. One of the worst flu seasons on record, with one strain piggybacking another. The flu shot this year was not as effective against a mutating virus that learned to transform itself. I watched one person after another fall to this raging virus, and for months I did everything I could to avoid it. It was only after the crazy hustle of the holiday season, on the tail of my yearly talk with university students when I could no longer outrun it. It caught up with me, but it did not take me down. However ineffective this year’s vaccine might be, it had enough bite to at least lessen the severity.
I listen to the wind howl outside my window and watch the waves swamp the coastline, putting on a show for captivated spectators. As much as the waves churn up the inflammation in my joints, they are also sweeping in the tide of another year, the promise of things to come once we pass through the storm of disease. They carry me on their back, and like RA, they can either slam me against the rocks or transport me over them. But there’s an optimism in their rising swells – an upsurge filled with possibility, wellness and hope that this year will be a year of stability, maybe one more step towards a cure, more discoveries on how best to manage our disease, another year of connecting and sharing, and simply living the best we can in the tide of our lives, no matter what that life may be.
The waves will never stop. Like life with chronic illness, they are always moving forward. They are a fiercely beautiful reminder of the tumultuous life we live. They are always pushing against barriers, just as we push are always pushing against RA, and with perseverance, we can overcome them. We carry the glowing embers of our past into the swells, warming us with the triumphs engraved on the rocks of our life. Soon the waters will settle, and roll us gently towards the shore of fresh possibilities. All we need to do is ride them.
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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.