It was a long time coming – the sublime transition from cool spring days to sultry summer twilights’ was a stormy one, and not just for the weather but also for my joints. The air in recent weeks has been heavy and like a tropical rain forest – fantastic for keeping the yearly forest fires in check, but the moisture and humidity swelling in the clouds mirrored my hot bloated joints. In the last week, the humidity has broken, the clouds have swept away, and the blue skies of summer has finally calmed the storm.
It’s providential that the turn in the weather coincides with my summer break from school. I have survived six months of the Writer’s Studio program, while working and engaging in life. I am exhausted but satisfied. I’ve worked hard to sustain a life with chronic disease, and part of that effort is working it out with RA. I sometimes forget about the effort it takes living with chronic illness. With all we have going on in our lives, it’s easy to forget about paying attention to our disease, because let’s face it – it’s the one thing we want to push aside but can’t. It’s become one of the many features that make up our lives and putting the same amount of effort into managing it allows us to sustain the things we love – our work, family, friends, school, travel and hobbies.
I have spent the better part of my year maintaining regular exercise with yoga, swimming and walking. In recent weeks I’ve added a program of Latin dance to rediscover the rhythm in my life, build up cardio and prepare me to return to the ballet studio. This time around, there will be no toe shoes (grimace) but I hope to reawaken the beauty, love and movement that is etched somewhere in the history of my body. If I hope to reopen that chapter in my life, I need to use all the tools I’ve learned in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and specialist appointments and put them into motion. I won’t always have access to my medical team. It’s up to me to step up, do the work and keep the rhythm going.
Summer has always been my season of wellness, but this year was a compelling reminder that I can’t take that for granted. I worked harder with RA this year to support the active and creative life I lead. If I have the resolve to work at all the things that sustain me, I can use the same resolve to work it out with RA.
The sultry nights are soothed by the gentle kiss of an ocean breeze. I sit outside on the patio watching the moon slip over the horizon and celebrate the brevity of a west coast summer and what I have accomplished to date. August promises to be a busy month, despite my break from school, but as long as I keep working it out with RA, the skies will stay clear and I will always see the remarkable world at my feet.
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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.