October is my favourite time of the year. According to the old Celtic calendar October is the month where we celebrate the turning of the year from light to dark. We watch leaves tumble from their branches in colorful glory, leaving trees naked beneath the moonlight, casting their ghostly shadows over the ground. We rise to misty mornings that shroud the wraiths of the past in their damp sanctuaries. It’s the time for scarves, sweaters, warm hats and gloves to emerge from the closet – and the scary movies wake from hibernation. Legends say this is the time of year when the curtain between the living and the dead is the thinnest.
I love watching the classic horror films, especially around All Hallows Eve. I’ve seen many of them several times over, but they still spawn an irrational fear of the unknown. The first few months of dealing with arthritis reminds me of the naivety of those poor unfortunate victims in those movies. I was haunted by the spectre of arthritis. I was never prepared for what was around the corner or tucked under the bed. I had visions of twisted skeletal hands reaching out to me from the walls. I observed the warnings, I followed the research, but I was the impulsive heroine who walked in the woods amidst the dark creatures lurking in the gloom; or the unfortunate girl who leaves the safety of her bedroom, slinking downstairs to investigate that innocuous bump in the night. The symptoms of arthritis skulked around me like fiery shadows. The first time I saw my swollen fingers I was aghast – are these the hands of the Frankenstein monster? No, just my own hands swollen with the heat of old lady RA. Is that the icy fire of a hand on the back of my neck? No, just the blistering caress of an arthritis flare. Is that the shadow of the Hunchback of Notre Dame in the mirror? No, that’s just me with my back out. Is that the distressed moan of a warped spirit coming to take me away? No, that’s me grumbling over the agony of my aching joints.
While I indulge in watching the images of heroines in distress and monsters clamoring over the landscape, I like to imagine that one day, one of those unfortunate victims will be arthritis itself, strangled in the mire of its own disease. Just as I am incessantly haunted by the footprints of arthritis, I hope that arthritis is plagued by the changing innovations of research that will ultimately wipe out its menace.
Happy All Hallows Eve
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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.