It’s a Sunday night on Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. The house is cosy, warmed by the radiating heat of the oven; winter vegetables tinted with the color of autumn leaves are steaming on stoves. We sit in front of a flickering fireplace, chatting with family, and sipping wine to warm our blood.
On a chill fall morning, four years ago, I woke to find my maiden body beset by an old crone. Like an unwelcome squatter, she took up permanent residence in my joints, and now I wake each morning, knowing she will rise with me. On a good day, she’ll scatter in less than twenty minutes; on a bad day, she will linger, clinging to me with her hot pain and fatigue, leaving me swollen and heavy. In my bathroom cabinet, I am confronted with various medications, braces and hot water bottles; one day I will feel like a young stallion; the next day I will feel as if a truck has run over me; but in spite of her unpredictable display, and all the challenges she creates, I am fortunate.
I have a warm bed, a roof over my head, family and friends who love me; I am still mobile; I don’t require the aid of walkers or canes; I possess the ability to rise from my bed in the morning, go to my desk and thrive in the passion of my work; I can exercise, travel and play on the stage.
I have watched the old lady steal the lives of many, and yet, she has passed over me with the worst of her sins. With all the complications this disease can bring, she has not won. I am lucky to possess the strength to fight her ruthless shadow. I’ve survived four years, in spite of her presence and I know I have many more years of fighting to endure – but tonight, I will sit at the table with loved ones, surrounded by good food and wine, and be thankful for all I have, and all I have yet to achieve.
Happy Thanksgiving Canada and here’s to an abundant harvest for the fall season for all the world. Courage to all the families and individuals whose lives have been tainted by 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.