I was one of the lucky ones and I know that!
I was diagnosed incredibly early with AS. I had a terrible case of iritis, which was caused, I believe, by incredible life stress at the time. As I was fumbling through a painful week to get the diagnosis, I was in-contact with my cousin who I knew had eye and back problems in the past. He suggested I get tested for HLA-B27.
I thought it was stress
I did not go to the doctor for low back pain. I had low back pain, and it was worse in the morning, but it always got better throughout the day. I was recently married and there was a lot of change and stress with my new life - which included a new mattress, which I attributed the back pain to.
When the HLA-B27 came back positive, I was in to see a rheumatologist who confirmed that with physical signs, lab tests, and family history, I have AS, despite very minimal symptoms. I was prescribed anti-inflammatories and sent on my way.
I had a huge flare
After about 1.5 years, my marriage ended and the stress in my life increased exponentially. I had a huge flare-up of SI Joint pain, plus my right wrist and left ankle flared, were swollen, and incredibly painful. Thus began the medication dance. After a trial of multiple medications, we finally landed on biologics, and I have been stable for nearly 7 years.
Since starting biologics, I have been able to backpack in Costa Rica, travel to Europe, complete my master's degree, travel across Canada for school/work... twice, start my career, and get remarried. This has also pushed me towards my newest life focus: I am an occupational therapist and use qigong to manage stress and keep my body limber. I have recently enrolled in a qigong instructor program and will be running education on pain combined with qigong practice.
This pushed meAlthough I have AS, I know I am lucky. This has pushed me to be closer to my wife and introduced me to lifestyle and stress management, which has helped my overall health and well-being. In addition, it has projected me towards a balanced career path that I feel aligns with my personality, beliefs, and interests. I am grateful every day for the life I have, and that my body allows me to do the things that I want and need to do!
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?