Life Is Easier in the Summer
When the weather is nice, I tend to forget I’m sick.
The sun is shining, the yard is green and inviting, and I don’t even have to put on shoes to enjoy it all. (In fact, according to the grounding technique, it might be healthier not to!) There are lazy bonfires and cool drinks, and the longer days help with completing more tasks.
This time of year reminds me of George Gershwin’s classic tune from “Porgy and Bess”:
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma’ is good lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry.”
The lyrics — originally portrayed onstage through a lullaby — evoke a calm atmosphere without stress or troubles. All the baby’s needs are met, and they are surrounded by a protective, blissful aura. To me, this is a parallel to the adult comforts of security and stability.
Chronic disease patients don’t often get to experience this peace. Everything seems to require more effort in the wintertime. My joints ache. My bones seem more frail, somehow. My skin is sensitive to cold and dryness. I’m continually sleepy from November to March. I have to drink hot tea by the gallon and take scalding hot baths to keep my body temperature stabilized. And to top it all off, there’s the biting cold to contend with. Some days, I simply don’t want to move.
To be fair, there are ugly days of summer also. Teaching in a confined studio space without air conditioning on the hottest days makes me lose my appetite and become fatigued incredibly quickly. (This situation prompted us to buy an air-conditioning unit immediately to preserve my health as well as the students’ mental energy.) The harshness of the elements can go from comforting to cruel in just a few hours’ time.
But for the most part, the month of June is a lovely and kind one. I’m reminded of this every time I step outside to water my 40 species of houseplants, garden herbs, and veggies; they flourish this time of year and immediately boost my spirits. In my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, summer also means live jazz music and the best barbecue in the world. There’s a spirit of fun shared by everyone in the metro area, as we celebrate life in a city practically made for summer.
And speaking of food, the bustling farmers markets offer fresh produce and locally made foods brimming with nutrients and flavor. Yes, some are available in grocery stores in the cold months also. But it may have been shipped, preserved, or frozen before making its way to my kitchen, whereas the market produce has a certain close-to-home magic that boosts my diet in a tasty and accessible way.
It’s also easy to travel in summer without the danger of icy roads. The sun acts as a beacon to stimulate energy and entice us out of our homes to go explore our surroundings. A connection to nature, different parts of the world, and various cultures is a mental and spiritual boost that helps us feel alive. Beyond travel for pleasure, ties to family and friends also buoy us: My parents live 800 miles away from Kansas City, so I schedule my visits for the months when it’s safe and easy to make the trip.
I’m grateful to live in a location where we experience all four seasons in their range of variety and beauty. And I’m more thankful still that, if and when my vasculitis condition reacts to the effects of each season, I have the resources to keep comfortable and healthy. Not every autoimmune patient can say that — especially in the early stages of exploring symptoms and desperately grasping for a diagnosis. It’s a line that I repeat often to disease newcomers: The beginning of the road is rocky, but it smooths out over time. Eventually, you will be able to tolerate more, sustain more, and enjoy more of your life.
So, I cherish these pleasant summer days, knowing the winter will come. It’s true at a literal level, but also as a metaphor for my illness. Though I’m in remission now, there could be a relapse or some other health challenge immediately around the corner. It feels taboo to say “life is good” without mentally tacking on a qualifier: “right now, anyway.” As if I’m tempting fate, speaking a relapse into existence, or taking my situation for granted.
If I keep it all in perspective, I don’t feel so nervous. The bad days make the good days even warmer and cozier by contrast. And if and when that relapse does arrive, I’ll be ready for it.
Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.