My AS And The Relief Of Getting Diagnosed
Earlier today I was sitting in the doctors waiting room filling out the questionnaire about my current condition that I've filled out numerous times in the past. It still gives me pause for thought. I answer questions like “How easy is it for you to put on socks?” Or, “Can you get in and out of a car unassisted?”. The answer to these questions 3 years ago would have been “not easy at all” and “barely”.
The reality of the struggle
I get very emotional filling in these surveys and like most of you, these were or are serious issues. I went almost 10 years undiagnosed and realise just how far I've come. Living with AS was a struggle, it impacted every facet of my life, my motivation, energy level, mood, friendships, career, love life, well the list goes on.
Focusing on hope
However, for now, I want to focus on hope. When I was sleeping 4 hours a night maximum, popping painkillers and anti-inflammatories just to bring my pain to a barely manageable level. When I had tried every manner of treatment both medical and nontraditional. When I couldn't laugh, sneeze or cough without intense pain.
I begged for more treatment
When I hit the wall and the painkillers didn't work and my mobility was extremely limited, in tears I begged my general practitioner to either give me stronger meds or do something, at this moment something miraculous happened. I guess he decided I was worth a referral. I went to a back specialist who then got me into an MRI machine. (Side note: lying still on your back for 40 minutes without moving with AS is a less than enjoyable experience).
A diagnosis relief
After this process, I was called back to the specialist who, in a very somber manner, and in slightly accented English, (maybe at this point I should point out that I live in the wonderful nation of Denmark). He told me that I had AS. I truly think he was surprised by my relief and seemed to want to hit home that this was a chronic autoimmune disease. I didn't know what this meant or the implications and I didn't care, all I cared about was that my diagnosis wasn't “you have a sore back”.
Here I am, happier than ever
After so long I had something tangible to hold on to something to fight against, an explanation for what had otherwise been taken very lightly by the people around me. That diagnosis was the first day of a new life for me. I had identified the issue now I felt there must be treatments, special exercises and a more sympathetic response to my plight, and you know what? There was. Slowly but surely my life has changed since that day, a day that should have been bleak was a ray of hope. It's not great having AS but for now it is more or less in remission and I have a back and chest that don't hurt twenty-four seven. This is a change I couldn't have imagined yet here I am happier and healthier than I've ever been.
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?