The irony in my life is that old lady RA materialised when I was working in a Rheumatology clinic. I worked in an environment where arthritis thrived; I saw how arthritis marked its victims; I watched it invade people’s lives. In theory I knew all the facts about RA, but when I was diagnosed, I joined the same alien domain of all her past victims.
What did I expect? I was prepared for the influx of pain and inflammation in my joints; I expected objects might tumble from my weak and swollen hands on bad days; it didn’t surprise me when pens wobbled in my weak grip, and my carefully constructed handwriting converted to an inaudible scrawl across the page. I expected, due to what I observed, that the creeping exhaustion accompanying the assault on my body was absolute; I anticipated that I might run into trouble handling small objects; I expected that my life would change in adapting to living with arthritis. I saw all these things in others struggling with this disease and I thought I understood what to expect.
Here’s what I didn’t expect: I didn’t expect that somewhere in the shroud of my illness, I would be able to reclaim pieces of my life before arthritis. I didn’t expect that I would learn how build a new life that suited me. I didn’t foresee the power I had to fight through the bewilderment of a chronic illness; I didn’t know I would discover a new determination to work hard enough to return to an active life, get back on the stage, and travel. In an astonishing twist of fate, my life with arthritis revealed an opportunity to revive the lingering dream of being a writer and make it a reality. I chose to make the most out of my time, living each day to the fullest. Arthritis granted me the surprising resolve to take advantage of every aspect in life.
Expectations are never what they seem; sometimes in the midst of disease, there are secret blessings waiting to be discovered, and those unexpected revelations will uncover the strength to lead you to places you might not have imagined.
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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.
I love this post. It’s amazing what blessings appear when you least expect them.
Thanks Carla. It’s strange to think that a chronic illness can actually bring something new and valuable to your life. I never would have thought…
In a way, being diagnosed with RA when I was–before the Internet, before Google, and in a place far from a good library–was lucky. I didn’t know enough about the disease or its implications to have any expectations about how it might affect me. So, while I was a little concerned about one day being unable to walk and having twisted-up joints, the prospect seemed unreal and far, far into the future.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
I’m glad that you’ve been so pleasantly surprised about how much you can do in spite of your RA–and glad that it inspired you to push boundaries you might not have without it. Life is a funny old thing.
Have a lovely week, J. I hope you’re enjoying some warm summer weather. 😀
Thanks Wren, the weather has warmed up and it’s been easier to manage in the drier temperatures. Hope you are slaying your dragon 🙂
It’s strange, isn’t it? We nonchalantly wade through life dreaming big dreams and then we hit a detour and suddenly we’re doing what we only daydreamed about. I, too, have been able to seize opportunities thanks to RA. Feels weird to say that, but it is so.
It was a bit of a shock to realize it took a chronic illness to finally make me step up and take action. I think with chronic illness you are more aware of the need to live each day to the fullest and take advantage of the good days. Hope you are staying well and enjoying life Irma. Cheers 🙂