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The Old Lady in My Bones

I Think I Can…I Know I Can.

DSCN1336Remember the story of a little engine taking on the impossible task of tugging a chain of railroad cars up a steep and craggy mountain road? When no one else would attempt it, a modest locomotive stepped up and took on the task, chugging its way upwards, while others refused to try. When the mountain of RA sprang up in front of me, the straight road I was travelling suddenly became a slanting coiled path and I was faced with the monumental task of pulling my life up the slope of disease.

Having RA can feel like always pulling a loaded freight car up a mountain. The inflammation and pain weighed on my joints, clogging up the perpetual motion of my life. There were days when the weight seemed to lighten, but its presence would always linger. Daily tasks and activities that were once effortless turned into roadblocks, and the new routine of my life with RA was spent trying to find my way around them. Life didn’t stop in the face of my disease – family, friends, work and time continued to flow around me and I had no other choice but to find a way to keep up with it.

There were some activities I unpacked and left at the roadside; a couple were retrieved at a later time, but others would be left to linger in the potholes of my past. Ironically, the onset of my disease inspired me to try my hand at aspirations I had postponed. It took work and a lot of time to find my motivation, understand how the disease worked within my body, and learn my new limits. I wasn’t able to approach my activities in the same way. I had to make adjustments while weaving up the curving road of my disease. I learned to value my life in each success and failure.

I’ve had an extremely busy summer – travel, performing, writing festivals, work, friends and family. It has become the busiest season of my life since the arrival of RA. It took a few years for me to reach that point; it took patience (and, let’s face it, often frustration) for me to understand how to manage my life while carrying the burden of RA. I learned just how far I could push and when to pull back. I had my good days, my bad days, but I kept going. I used to race through life, but now I’ve learned that slow and steady is the best way to success.

I am now into the beginning of performances for another show. I can feel my engine putting along, the steady undertow of my energy dissipating into the mists behind me. I have just enough to push me over the hill to the next plateau where I can pause and recharge. I have no idea how long the next climb will take, but I have learned not to be discouraged at the idea of hanging back for a bit. I need that time to refresh and breathe life into a new objective, to look back and appreciate how far I’ve come.

There are things I may not be able to do well or ever do again, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing I can do. There are always new goals that replace the old ones. And even when I try and fail, I can still find some small consolation in the effort. The world is full of possibilities and I won’t let chronic disease stop me from exploring – because I know I can.



About J.G. Chayko

I am a writer living on the beautiful West Coast in Vancouver B.C. I am a poet at heart but also write prose, fiction and creative non-fiction. In my thirties, while working for a Rheumatology clinic, I was diagnosed with early Rheumatoid Arthritis. I created " The Old Lady In My Bones" to share my experience living with this disease and to create an awareness that arthritis touches people of all ages, not just the elderly.


20 thoughts on “I Think I Can…I Know I Can.

  1. I love this. How you find the silver linings of RA. Our lives may change, our path altered bit we still move forward. Thanks for saying it so eloquently.

    Posted by phat50chick | October 4, 2015, 2:49 pm
  2. Really beautiful! It’s a great way to help others understand how RA can change but not derail us.

    Posted by wordsforwaves | October 4, 2015, 3:22 pm
  3. I know you can too!

    Posted by aspiringwriter22 | October 4, 2015, 6:01 pm
  4. You’re definitely the “Little Engine That Does” with everything going on in your life!

    Posted by Carla Kienast | October 5, 2015, 9:27 am
  5. I have mild RA. I’ve only had one big flare and it was only in two joints. But the funny thing is that no matter what stage of severity of RA you have you can relate to this post. Although my everyday isn’t an uphill climb I’ve had my share. What a great post.

    Posted by mrsmendymac | October 5, 2015, 11:34 am
    • Thank you. I hope that you continue to do well. Even with mild RA, there are still days it can be challenging to find the energy to keep going. Sounds like you are doing pretty good 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and stay well. Cheers.

      Posted by J.G. Chayko | October 5, 2015, 11:58 am
  6. Love your conclusion J.G. It’s really positive and encouraging. 🙂

    Posted by Kev | October 5, 2015, 12:16 pm
  7. Julie, you are an inspiration to all sufferers with RA. Your writing is encouraging, descriptive, entertaining and eloquent. I enjoy reading your articles which are sent to me by your mom. I consider myself one lucky duck not to have RA or anything like it….I can’t imagine the pain. Hope there may be some relief in new medical technology that will appear soon to help all sufferers. Keep up the good work.

    Posted by Pat Spinks | October 5, 2015, 12:37 pm
    • Thank you Pat. It can be a rough road with RA, especially since one day you can be well and the next, feel like a truck has hit you. I am fortunate to live in an age where there are more choices for treatment and management. It takes time to find the right one, but it can make all the difference. Wishing you well. Cheers.

      Posted by J.G. Chayko | October 5, 2015, 12:50 pm
  8. Bravo! I “like” your inspirational style. Stay well.

    Posted by Grace | October 5, 2015, 3:52 pm
  9. “I need that time to refresh and breathe life into a new objective, to look back and appreciate how far I’ve come.” I love this sentence. It is often when I stop moving forward and take time to see how far I have come, that I am most impressed with myself.

    Posted by Cathy | October 1, 2016, 6:16 am


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