Within the translucent fragile walls of a glass bulb dangling in the warm glow of holiday lights, I see an unblemished world waiting to be quenched with new memories in a New Year. In the refracted light, I saw, as Ebenezer Scrooge saw, the story of my arthritis past, present, and a hopeful glimpse of fuzzy future waiting to be crafted.
Arthritis blew in with the onset of winter five years ago. The “Old Lady”, as I call her, arrived uninvited, invading my body as the unknown intruder. I passed her off as a common virus, pondering at her tenacious hold on me, but it wasn’t long before I was enlightened to the truth of her true identity. My mornings no longer belonged to me. I woke feeling years older; I started and stopped new medications; I did x-rays and scans; I signed up for research projects. I rolled through the storms of RA with allergic reactions, fevers, side effects, and flash flares. And then there came a day when I decided that I was going to reclaim power over my life. I dubbed her “The Old Lady” and took her power away by redefining her. In that slow and arduous transformation, I discovered a new normal, a rebirth of a life I had once known. I climbed the Great Wall of China, I visited the intriguing city of New Orleans and wandered the banks of the Mississippi; I swam in the summer, conquered the physical challenge of hot yoga, changed my diet, and reclaimed my life with persistence and determination.
This morning, with humidity hanging in the air of the damp west coast, I rose with rigid joints tinged with heat; I crossed the boundaries of my new normal. I got up and got on with the day. I live each moment with the full knowledge that tomorrow is a fresh start that cannot be foretold in my present.
My hope for each New Year, is that we will come one step closer to a cure; that the old lady in every arthritis sufferer will fade into remission, never to be seen again. Until that day, I will live my life by my rules; I will reclaim my mornings, rise with the sun, and seize the energy of a new day. I will walk forward with my sword and shield.
What will the New Year bring? Whatever it brings, I am ready.
Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year filled with health and happiness.
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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.