A.S. Face 0815: Denis Laplante

Face 815

I am a French-Canadian, born and raised on the family farm on the outskirts of Bonnyville, Alberta. I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies, in the hopes of one day becoming a librarian. The following is a brief history of my life with AS.

My history with AS began at the age of 13, though I didn’t know it.

As is quite common, from what I read and have been told, I began to have pain in the SI joints. As a moderately obese 13 year old, I was written off as simply suffering from the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, along with a family history of overly flexible joints. In other words, my chiropractor thought my bones were sitting wrong in my hip sockets from sitting too much. As a result, I went undiagnosed for 6 years. Flareups came and went, and I came to believe my chiropractor’s diagnosis, as the flareups went away after his adjustments though the treatments were not the cause.

At the age of 19 I entered University, and moved to Edmonton. Naturally, I changed chiropractors, and was in for a bit of a shock. After a month of treatments, 3 times a week, this chiropractor, now a good friend of mine, refused to believe anything my previous chiropractor had to say, and referred me for a battery of tests. Unconvinced by the negative results of an X-ray, he sent me for a bone scan. After the bone scan gave me a 3% chance of bilateral sacroiliitis, he sent me for an MRI. The MRI confirmed that I not only had bilateral sacroiliitis but also Scheurmann’s disease and mild Scoliosis, and he put it to me bluntly that I was likely to develop AS. I thank the man for both his honesty, his suspicions, and his incredible knowledge surrounding this type of illness. I’m sure that without him, I might have gone undiagnosed for several more years.

After a bout of depression I took myself in hand, refusing to simply give up and let my body degenerate without a fight. Despite fatigue, pain, and the knowledge that I would fuse eventually, I fought back in the only way I could: I lived. I now have a bachelor’s degree in education. I’m beginning a master’s degree, joined a choir, went to France with it and sang mass in Notre Dame de Paris. I joined a TaeKwonDo group in order to stay limber and lose weight, and despite the fact that I am sometimes in too much pain to do everything properly, I get tremendous support from the instructor to continue. I sometimes wonder if I beat the depression, or if I simply fight with it. When people ask me how I am I say “I’m not dead yet”, and let them interpret it as they will. I’m not sure how I interpret it myself, some days. I wonder how people would take it if I responded honestly to the often posed question “are you ok?”.

Where I am now: as you may have noticed, at the time I hadn’t started fusing. In April 2013 my rheumatologist had me go for another X-ray, and there it was. My lower thoracic spine is now in the process of fusing, no longer requiring an MRI to track its progress. This also confirmed that I had AS for both my rheumatologist and my chiropractor. As a student, finding employment with a salary sufficient to pay rent, food and tuition is difficult outside of construction. Any job requiring heavy lifting was obviously out of the question. As a result I now work in Security Services, refusing jobs that require sitting down for too long, fearing it could aggravate my SI joints. A pleasant side effect is that I now walk — yes, WALK– 120 km a week, which keeps my SI joints mobile and relatively pain free. My goal is to keep my mid-spine as spry as possible for as long as I can.

My name is Denis Laplante, and I am a face of AS. It is a part of me, but it is not what I am. I am a teacher, a martial artist, a Bel Canto soloist and a chorist. I am a student, a security guard, and boyfriend to the most wonderful woman in the world.

I am Denis Laplante, and this, this is my face.

Alberta, Canada

4 Responses to “A.S. Face 0815: Denis Laplante”

  1. Hi Denis,

    Welcome, nice to meet you, and I love the attitude.

    Jane 709

  2. Hi Dennis… I am faces of ankylosing spondylitis #770 and am truly inspired by your story!! At times, I want to give.up on school because it’s difficult to sit for so long and study, to literally rest my arm on a computer desk and write or type for short periods. But you have truly help me to want to continue my education!! Thank you my new AS brother!! Many warm well wishes and blessings to you!! God bless you and your wonderful lady!!!

  3. Dear Denis,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
    Sincerely Cookie

  4. Hang in there, hopefully, in will only get better…

    Jackie #741

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