A.S. Face 0227: Vince Yu

I’m 40 years old.  I suspect that my AS started surfacing when I was in my early teens because I constantly had hip pain and sometimes lower back pain.  But because I was training for and competing in 1,500 and 3,000 meters on the track teams, and playing on Volleyball teams in middle school, high school and college in China, we always just thought it was the sports injuries associated with training.  Over the years, the pain had crept up along my spine and toward my neck.  Finally, right before I came to the States for graduate school at the age of 25, I was diagnosed with AS, which of course, we had never heard of.  It probably would not have made much of a difference had I been diagnosed with AS earlier, since there was and is no effective treatment or cure of the disease.

Over the last 15 years or so, my conditions have definitely worsened.  I have very limited range of motion on my back and my neck and I cannot easily bend down to tie my right shoe because of my right hip.  You can definitely tell from my posture that there’s something wrong with my back and neck.  But given that I’m at “advanced” stage of the disease (given that I’ve had it for at least 25 years), I consider myself lucky compared to some of the fellow AS’ers, who are in a lot worse conditions than I am.  I’ve long gotten so used to being in pain constantly.  What has been most frustrating is that I can’t do a lot of the stuff that I could easily do and can’t play a lot of the sports I love and was extremely good at.

I’m sure a lot of you share the same feeling – being in one position, being it sitting, laying down, or walking, for a long period of time, usually does a number on you.  I used to take some regular pain meds to alleviate some of the pain, but in recent years, I’m not really taking anything.  I can’t do any jogging, or play volleyball, soccer and badminton competitively anymore.  But I’ve gotten into some other hobbies, which make life just as fulfilling 🙂  I train and compete in K-9 sport of Schutzhund and enjoy hiking and backpacking.  I know – people drop their jaws when they see or hear that I backpack for days with a 60 lb pack on my back 🙂  Doctors have all warned against me doing any arduous exercises and basically all wanted me to just do light stretching and then resign to just trying to prolong the period of time before certain parts of my body are worn out and need replacement.  Basically, they said the only thing that can be done is to get a hip replacement at some point in time.  But I’ve been lifting weight and doing fast walking in the gym and I’ve found that these actually help me counter and combat the forward curving of my spine.  Any given day, my body feels the best coming out of the gym 🙂

It is so encouraging to see so many of you with this debilitating disease sharing amazing stories of you overcoming the challenges of having these conditions.  It is so true that so few people know about this horrible and incurable disease that affects so many people’s quality of life.  I applaud this project to raise the awareness of AS and truly hope that people who have it can feel free to share their stories and experiences, good or bad 🙂  And knowing that God always loves us and has a plan for each and every one of us is always comforting ….


Born in China, now living in Arizona, United States of America

6 Responses to “A.S. Face 0227: Vince Yu”

  1. Dear Vince,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I applaud your determination to continue to find things that you enjoy doing. Someone asked me how I stay happy, it is simple, when I am no longer able to do something I love, I find something else to fill that void. That is how this site came about. I wanted to make something positive out of having Ankylosing Spondylitis. Thank you so much.
    Sincerely Cookie

  2. Dear Vince,

    I too live in Arizona and have “anvanced” A.S. There is so much beauty here to see and explore. Thank you for sharing your courage and kind words.
    I will hear these words when I go walking in our beautiful desert (Old Pueblo).

    In Kindness,

  3. This is an excellent posting Vince. I empathise with everything you say. Exercise is very important in order to maintain posture. I am sure many people will get much encouragement from your story.

    Stephen Dent (face 52)

  4. Hello Vince,

    I can’t manage one position for very long, myself. I’m like a shark… I MUST keep moving, in essence… to stay alive. I miss being able to lie down in bed & trying to get something resembling rest. It’s Heaven for about 5 minutes & then the muscle cramps set in with a vengeance. I sometimes wonder if the mild exercise I do keeps me flexible to some extent OR accelerates the deterioration. My jury is still out on that one, but I’m coming to find that staying in motion, while painful, is ultimately beneficial. The worst thing is to remain sedentary. When I move any joint in my body… especially my neck & pelvis, it’s snap, crackle, POP! The AS is doing a number on my jaw; TMJ is trying to lock me up & I’m hoping that low heat, massage & careful chewing will keep me limber. I find your post wonderfully encouraging & I wish you all the best. I feel like a slave to my meds. I’m glad that you have found a way to avoid taking all this poison. My back is almost completely fused too. I’m so bent that it’s now difficult to breathe. I hope that your exercise regimen will continue to work for you. Take care of number one!

    GOD Bless,


  5. Thank you for sharing your very encouraging story. 😉

  6. Thanks for the responses, guys! It’s so great to have this support network where we can share stories and experiences with each other. And I’m very encouraged to read a lot of the stories. Jacquie, I hope you keep getting out to enjoy our beautiful desert; Stephen, thank you for your kind words; and John, I can totally relate to how you’re feeling. My spine is all fused up and I hear crackles too when I try to move my neck around and my pelvis and one hip are a mess. I hope the low heat, massage and chewing help with your jaw and staying in motion in general continues to help you. I know the kinds of pain we experience a lot of times are unbearably excruciating! But remember, brother, we have A.S. but A.S. does not have us!

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