A.S. Face 0185: Ross Gillespie

15 January 2011
I’m a 31 year old Police Officer from Glasgow, Scotland.
I’m married to Suzanne and have a son Jack who is about to turn 3 years old and a baby due in 3 weeks time, oh and I suffer from AS and most of its side affects!!
My first signs of AS started at the age of 13, with knee problems, this was put down to being heavily involved with sports and general wear and tear. At this point my cartilage was all but removed from my left knee. I continued to play Volleyball and Football daily until around the age of 16 when my knee pains and lower back pain was just too much. My pains were again put down to the sports and growing pains.
I  joined the Police Force at the age of 19, a year later I developed a lot of bowel problems which lasted for the next few years, I still had the back pains at this time. I under went every test possible for bowel problems as there is Crohns disease within my family. Nothing proved obvious enough to diagnose. I still suffered with my back but was constantly told that was because of my bowel problems. At this point I suffered really badly with Depression and Anxiety with all the time I was losing off of work as well as Iritis and other what I now know are common AS side effects. I was so bad some days that I couldn’t even sit in the same room as close family members or friends. Of course everyone knew what was wrong with me and had their own opinions and treatments, funnily enough none took my pain away, a Gastro Doctor told me to “Just live with it” as there was nothing they could do for me, I had them questioning if it was all in my head. Thankfully my wife who saw what I was like daily believed me and my own GP was great too. I was on more pills than I had ever taken, nothing was touching my pain.
At the age of 26 I spoke to my wife’s uncle who is a Specialist in America, he had seen me suffer on his visits over the water over the years and said he knew what was wrong. I thought as usual everyone knows what it is, but he explained how he felt that my bowel problems were coming from my back rather than the other way round. I had only met my Rheumy for the first time the week before this and before I knew it I was having the HLA-B27 test done, an MRI and all the other stuff. On my next visit to the clinic I was told I had AS. As none of the pills touched the pain I was put on Humira, this was great and turned my life around before it started attacking my liver, I then had to change to Enbrel which I prefer as I find the twice weekly injections are better than the one injection a fortnight on Humira as I now don’t have a long spell of time between injecting. I do still suffer from bad flares and am constantly in daily pain which is kept as low as possible with all the pills, patches and injections that I use and these let me try to live a normal AS life with juggling family and work. The crutches and walking stick are always kept handy unfortunately as nobody knows what tomorrow will bring but hopefully they wont be used for a while.
Just before Christmas 2011 I was taken into hospital with heart attack symptoms, after numerous tests it now appears that the AS has now attacked my heart lining (Pericarditis) which just adds to the aches and pains caused by this dreadful condition, I’m heading back to Cardio next week for more tests in relation to this. Anyway, I have a busy year ahead with the new born arriving soon and also numerous fundraisers for AS currently being organised so fingers crossed that despite the bad start to the year that I’ve had I will have little flares and manage a nearly “normal” year, if there is such a thing with AS.
Stand Tall and Don’t Let The “AS” Grind You Down
Glasgow, Scotland

12 Responses to “A.S. Face 0185: Ross Gillespie”

  1. Oh My Gosh, Ross, your story makes me want to cry! Sounds like you have the most lovely family! I too have battled with symptoms of AS for 15 years without really having a name for it until this past year. I am now following the strict no starch diet, http://lowstarchdiet.net/author.html and it really really really cut down on my back & neck pain. I have only been following the diet for 3 months, and each day I discover hidden starch that still needs to be cut out (spices, pills, etc) but I really do believe it’s helping. It is also helping to alleviate my colitis.

    Not sure if you have tried low starch yet, but there are so many amazing success stories of lessening the symptoms of AS, alleviating pain, and preventing AS to continue to deteriorate the body. http://www.kickas.org/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=cfrm
    I wish you all the luck. AS is horrible to have to live with.

    Thank you for sharing your story with all of us!


    • Hi Andrea, Thanks for the comment! Along with the advice of a Nutritionist ive tried every diet I could possible think of, no starch, then starch but no dairy, then no wheat, then what no this and no that! Ive tried all types of diet and apart from making me ill as my body was missing out on vital foods it made no difference to my symptons. Just because the diet side didnt help my symptons doesnt mean it wont help somebody elses though so its always handy to know.
      Good luck with the AS.

      • Ross,

        Thanks for being such a strong inspiriation of someone living with AS! I almost hated to mention the diet thing, as I didn’t want to be preachy, and I only wish someone had mentioned it to be years ago. But yes, I have heard it doesn’t work in all cases. I just really thank you for sharing your story with all of us! I wish you and your family all the best!!!!


  2. Brave guy, Ross, and all the best to you and Suzanne for the birth of Baby Gillespie no 2! Best wishes for a Healthy 2012, from Laura (suzanne’s old school pal) x

  3. Dear Ross,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think I may make you my poster child for the Faces of AS. You are young, vibrant and active and “you don’t look sick!” You sharing your story reminds everyone or should that this disease is a thief and silent and sneaky never knowing when it will strike, how much it will take away from us.. Thank you for helping me showing our “reality” of AS.
    Sincerely Cookie

  4. Ross,
    Thank you for telling us about your life. I hope you everything turns out the best for you!
    Dan B

  5. Thanks for sharing your story, Ross! Best wishes to you & your wife with your little family. My husband and I have two girls and I was diagnosed with AS in 2010.

  6. Ross, this has been a fascinating read for me – I hadn’t heard of AS before. I hope things calm down for you in 2012 and you, Suzanne and Jack all enjoy your new arrival xxx

  7. Keep your head up Rossco! Hope to see you back at work sooner rather than later.!

  8. I can’t believe how long it took the dr’s to diagnose your condition.
    You are an example to those of us that groan at the slightest little ache.
    Good luck with the future

  9. Thank you so much for posting. The more I have read on this site, the I’m starting to come to terms with my diagnosis. I have seen parts of my own story in many of the ones posted on here. It is helping me accept my diagnosis. Thank you to all that tell your stories, you never know who you are helping.
    Sincerely Teri

  10. Ross
    Congratulations to you and family on the arrival of your new son xx

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