A.S. Face 0136: Mike Supancich
I am 67 years old and developed my first symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis at 16 years of age. Of course it was misdiagnosed initially and I was treated with phenylbutazone and prednisone off and on throughout my college years. Finally I received low dose radiotherapy to my low back which turned off the disease for probably ten years. That treatment is no longer done secondary to long term risks. I entered Northwestern University Medical School in 1966 and diagnosed my own condition while reading about A.S. in a medical textbook. Unfortunately there was no real treatment beyond NSAIDS at that time. I completed an Ophthalmology Residency at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center in 1974 and practiced General Ophthalmology in Salinas California. In the mid 1980s my symptoms returned with a vengeance. Besides the fatigue, morning stiffness and decrease in my range of motion, I also developed lumbar spinal stenosis. This required lumbosacral surgery in 1986 and further spinal surgery with fusion in 1996 which led to my retirement from Ophthalmology. I really had a major increase in my symptoms in 1999 so my Rheumatolgist referred me to John Davis Jr, M.D., MPH at UC San Francisco where he was doing a early study on the usage of Enbrel on A.S. patients. I could not participate in the study since he discovered that in addition to A.S. I also had DISH which stands for diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis. He however persuaded my insurance company to cover my off label use of Enbrel. Within a month my symptoms were dramatically improved. I continued on Enbrel until 2004 when it became less effective. I was switched to Humira which again provided major relief and I continue on Humira currently. In 2001 I moved from Monterey County to the San Diego area in order to avoid the cold winters which caused my Raynaud’s Phenomena primarily in my feet to trigger off. In 2003 I formed the San Diego spondylitis support group with the help of the Spondylitis Association of America. Subsequently I served on the SAA board of directors for six years. Currently my spine is fused up to C7 and I do have some neck and shoulder issues. However I can still drive and enjoy both my family and my hobby of photography. Even though I am a physician I have learned a great deal from fellow members of our support group. I would advise all of you to try and participate in a group with fellow individuals coping with their A.S. We stress the importance of understanding your disease and keeping good records so you can participate with your Rheumatologist in making medical decisions. We also stress the importance of daily exercise and the availability of other forms of therapy beyond conventional western medicine. Westress the importance of being under the management of a Rheumatologist familiar with Ankylosing Spondylitis. I wish everyone well in dealing with this disease. You can live a productive life filled with personal accomplishments and joy.
Carlsbad, California United States of America