Sure, he’s still sleepy. He’s clumsy, a little disoriented, his dreams shredding away in slow motion as he stretches his limbs and carefully uncurls his long, spiky tail, which he switches back and forth like a cat when he’s alert and hunting.
He has outrageous morning breath. Dragon-breath. It burns.
The Dragon yawns like a cavern. Snaps his jaws closed. A hot bolt flashes through my knee, causing me to cry out in pain and surprise. Then, just like that, the pain is gone. I flex the joint, shake my head and go about my business. I soon forget the incident. But down in the basement of my mind, in a battered trunk closed tight with a big padlock, a memory twitches. Once upon a time, a long time ago, I’d have felt that pain, shrugged, and blithely gone on my way, unaware of the danger ahead.
Not any more. The padlock clicks open and the memories fly out. See, I’ve been this way before. Here there be dragons.
Am I childish, giving my rheumatoid arthritis a shape, form and personality, however imaginary? Maybe I am. But it helps me cope with the fear that crawled out of the trunk along with that old memory. It reduces this huge, incurable, dreadfully painful and disabling disease into a monster of more reasonable, less frightening proportions.
See, dragons aren’t nearly as scary.
Today, when the Rheuma Dragon bites, I’m ready. I’m wearing a fine, strong coat of mail; it’s rings are made of interwoven leflunomide, plaquenil and sulfasalazine. Over my mail I wear the bright, hardened armor of knowledge. My sword is sharp, light and strong, forged in the fire of hard-won experience. My spirits are high. My face and body are streaked with the magic blue woad of hope, mixed liberally with laughter. There is no better weapon against my Dragon than this. It’s my first defense—and my last. It gives him pause.
I know the Dragon can hurt me. He can dent my armor with his thick, sharp claws and wicked teeth, but he cannot overcome me. Armed as I am, I can strike back at him, weaken him, make him hurt so that he creeps away for a time to lick his wounds. And while he’s gone, I recover, too. I grow stronger. I learn from each battle. I look for new weapons.
And laughing, I prepare for the next fight. Because here there be dragons.