I’ve begun this post with some wordplay on that renowned query from Shakespeare to ponder the situation that arises for me every year like clockwork. Once a year our community, as do hundreds of others, presents The Walk for Arthritis to raise needed funds for research and to fuel encouragement for sufferers. Every year I mean to participate, but five years have slipped away and I still have not. I sometimes scuffle with a bit of guilt for not participating – after all, am I not one of the many faces of arthritis?
How is it that year after year this day comes and goes without my feet upon the pavement? Well, I’ll tell you…it’s not for lack of intention, it’s simply that every year when that fated walk comes around, I have already committed to other obligations. A few weeks before the dates of this year’s walk were announced I volunteered at the university to help with student physiotherapy training. This unforeseen donation of my time was on the same weekend of the Walk for Arthritis. I spent a few guilt-riddled days turning down invites to teams and questioning my devotion as an arthritis warrior, when I was suddenly struck with a reassuring awareness: I was supporting the arthritis effort. I devoted my time helping to shape future physiotherapists, who would one day have the skills to assist and support those marked with the crippling pain of arthritis. My own physiotherapist has done wonders in teaching me how to strengthen and condition my body to combat the pain of arthritis. My impact was subtle, a bit like a stream flowing into a larger body of water, but no less meaningful than if I had walked five kilometres in the name of arthritis.
This year the arthritis walk in Canada raised a healthy 1.2 million dollars for arthritis research. It’s a phenomenal result. Every year, through research, we get that one little step closer to finding a cure. Do I still cling to a bit of guilt for not participating? I may wrestle with some niggling irritation – I sometimes wonder if somewhere in the mysterious realm of my psyche, I’m holding out for that elusive cure that would eliminate walks for arthritis. Until that day comes, I can console my groundless guilt by continuing to advocate in other ways…and after all, there’s always next year….
“How now, my lord, why do you keep alone,
Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what’s done, is done”
Macbeth Act 3, scene 2, 8–12
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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.