Dandelion seeds wait for the breeze to pluck them from their beds where they ride on the back of the wind, oblivious to where they’ll land or what they may harvest. The seeds of arthritis are similar in that we never know where they will settle or what they may sow in each individual – fear, determination, anger, hope, courage – we can’t control the seeds that are planted, but we can try to weed out the good from the bad.
This Canadian Thanksgiving, my partner and I are cooking dinner for our families. My hands have had frequent skirmishes with arthritis in the last few weeks and I can only hope they will be up to the task, but in spite of their complaints, the seeds of arthritis will not stop me from celebrating with my family. It may seem strange to say that in this harvest season, I will also celebrate my life with arthritis. I don’t celebrate arthritis itself but I am thankful for what arthritis has reaped in me. This unexpected illness has exposed hidden strengths and pushed me to follow the dreams I shelved. I will exult in my victories – climbing the Great Wall of China, travelling, returning to the stage, resurrecting sleeping passions, being recognized by my peers and connecting with other outstanding warriors in the fight against arthritis. I will learn and be humbled from my defeats, but I will not be ruled by them.
I couldn’t stop the seeds of arthritis from taking root in my body; but since they did, the best I could hope was to harvest them in my own way. I can’t control every aspect of my illness, but I can take steps to sow the seeds of wellness. I can choose to remain strong by cherishing myself, exercising, resting, and following the advice of my medical practitioners. I can live in each moment; I can create goals, no matter how small or large, take the baby steps to reach them and recognize my success each step of the way. Arthritis holds no authority within the borders of my determination.
Despite where the seeds may scatter, I continue to believe that their potency will fade under the prevailing strength of the arthritis warrior. I will reap the seeds of hope, anticipating the day they harvest a cure. In the meantime, I will gather the spores that cultivate the cry of every victim: “I have arthritis; it does not have me”.
Happy Thanksgiving Canada. Wishing everyone a plentiful season filled with health, happiness and the courage to prevail.
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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.