A.S. Face 1018: Cindy LeBlanc
My name is Cindy, I’m 32 years old and I’m from Dieppe (Moncton) New Brunswick, Canada. I was diagnosed with AS when I was 27 in January 2008 but started having symptoms at a younger age. I was very active and athletic as a child. So I rarely slowed down,
At 19, I started feeling stiffness in my lower back in the morning, I could hardly get out of bed, at first, I didn’t think much of it until I realized the pain was still there after a few days, then weeks…The pain seemed to go away after some time. But would sometimes come back off and on for a few years. The next 7 years, I saw a few doctors, physiotherapists, tried acupuncture and I even ended up at the ER a few times because the pain was so bad, but all was a waste of time, as no doctor would even send me for X-Rays or further tests, they would send me home with more pain killers. At one point, I was told I had sciatica.
Thinking the pain was somewhat under control, one day I woke up and it was 10 times worst! My whole body was hurting, my entire spine and all my joints were hurting (wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, hips) I couldn’t even move my neck! I was terrified! Went to the doctor again and of course, gave me more pills. I needed answers and I felt no one was willing to help me figure out what was wrong. No one would take me seriously when I was in pain. Telling me to “suck it up” Thankfully, my (now) husband was there to help me through this. We have a family friend who’s a chiropractor, he heard what was going on and wanted to see me right away to see if he could maybe help me. After a few treatments, I started feeling a bit better but not enough. He was determined to figure out what the problem was. He wanted to take some X-rays of my hips because he found that I might have one leg slightly shorter than the other and thought that’s what was causing the pain in my hips…AND THAT’S WHEN HE FOUND IT…he told me it looks like I might have AS and said I should see my family doctor right away and get some tests done. A few weeks later, I got called to my doctors office and was given the official diagnose of AS. At this point my father was having similar symptoms and decided to get tested and surprise surprise, he was also diagnosed with AS. Thankfully for him, his symptoms are very minimal. Looking back, his father (my grandfather) had the exact same symptoms before he passed away. His spine was fused together for years, he was bent in half at the waist and wasn’t able to move his neck. To add to the family with AS, my cousin (also on my father’s side) was also diagnosed with AS a few years ago.
I was relieved to finally have some answers but at the same time, was upset that I couldn’t do some of the sports I loved to do, as it would trigger a flare up. (Softball, running ect…) I was also scared, as we wanted to start a family and didn’t know what to expect during a pregnancy. After some research and my doctor talking to a few specialists, I was told there was no danger to the baby. That’s all I needed to know! My pregnancy was very painful as there was nothing I could take for the pain…But it was all worth it in the end as I now have a beautiful 4 year old boy. He’s the light of my life!
My symptoms got worst after I had the baby; my rheumatologist tried changing my meds to find one that works. …I couldn’t enjoy the little things in life like running around the park with my son, going for walks or going skiing (without being in pain) Nothing would stop me from skiing regardless!
My rheumatologist decided the next step for me would be biological meds. I was prescribed Enbrel. I was terrified at first, thinking I’m only 32 and it’s already come to this point, what’s going to happen when I’m older? I started taking Enbrel in June 2013 and now…wow! I never felt better than I do now! I have yet to feel pain in my hips! I’m no longer stiff in the morning! I feel better then I ever did! I enjoyed going for a few hikes this summer (8-10 Km) I will be able to enjoy my favorite thing without dealing with pain, which is skiing and being part of the Canadian Ski Patrol. I’m also able to enjoy my love of running again. In fact I ran my first 5K for the Terry Fox Run last weekend. It felt wonderful! I am now training for a 10K race coming up next month and I feel empowered!!! I miss that feeling! Glad to have it back!
New Brunswick, Canada