Sure, he’s still sleepy. He’s clumsy, a little disoriented, his dreams only partly shredding away as he stretches his limbs and slowly 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. Snaps his jaws. 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, and I soon forget the incident. But in the back of my mind, a few levels down and out of sight, I’m wary. Once upon a time, a long time ago, I’d have blithely gone on my way, carefree and unaware of the danger ahead. When the dragon ambushed me and attacked, I’d fight him and come out alive but wounded.
See, I’ve been this way before. Here there be dragons.
Am I being childish, giving my rheumatoid arthritis a tangible form, however imaginary? Maybe so, but it helps me cope with the fear, reducing this incurable, dreadfully painful and disabling disease down into a monster of more reasonable, less frightening proportions. Today, when the rheuma dragon tries to bite, I’m ready. I’m wearing a fine, strong coat of mail made of interwoven molecules of adalimumab, leflunomide, plaquenil, and sulfasalazine. Over it I wear the hardened armor of knowledge. My sword is light and strong, forged out of hard-won experience.
But most important, my spirits are high. I’ve streaked my face and body with the woad of hope, mixed liberally with laughter. There is no better weapon against the rheuma dragon than this. It’s the first defense—and the last. As long as I wear my blue woad, he cannot penetrate the stone castle of my body.
Yes, the dragon can hurt me. He can scar my ramparts and dig at my foundation with his thick, sharp claws, but he cannot get in, ever, unless I lose my hope and quell my laughter.