A.S. Face 1209: Denise
My first memorable episode of back pain was when I was 22 and hurt my back working on my car. As I entered my mid-twenties I started have constant back pain. X-rays showed nothing. Physical therapy helped somewhat, but did not eliminate the pain. MRI showed some DJD, but nothing that should be causing the pain I was dealing with. PCP thought it was fibromyalgia and sent me to a rheumatologist. Rheumatologist told me my pain was in my head. I went to an osteopath a friend of mine went to. He gave me a shim for my shoe and told me the pain was in my head. I suffered a few pelvic injuries in the course of my work as a horse trainer after my daughters were born, and decided I needed to suck it up and be stronger. I needed to be tougher and block out the pain. As the years went by I dealt with the chronic pelvic and back pain as “occupational hazards”. After a few pelvic joint injections my (new) PCP thought maybe I needed an updated x-ray of my pelvis. The x-ray revealed something “suspicious for seronegative spondyloarthropathy”. After referral to a rheumatologist it was determined I had AS.
At the age of 44 I was diagnosed with AS; one year after I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was almost finished with my chemo. There is a part of me that wonders if my cancer treatment triggered a “flare”. Maybe I was just lucky and they took an x-ray at the right time. Back pain was a part of my life and I thought it was normal. After being told it was “in my head” repeatedly, I thought I was being a wimp. Be tough, be strong, never surrender. My father was not a quitter; he worked through the pain. So did my grandpa. They “just” had job related back pain. I was going to be strong like them and try to ignore the stabbing pain in my SI joints. There was no way I could be “broken”.
The diagnosis of AS hit me harder than my diagnosis of breast cancer. With BC, I knew I could be a survivor! (3+ years now!) AS will be with me forever, and it cannot be beat… only tamed.
Enbrel has been working for me. I try to keep to a regular stretching and exercise program. I try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. My joint pain seems to rotate throughout my body; sometimes my knee or hip, sometimes my back or neck. Nonetheless, I will not be defeated. Ice is my best friend. And it helps to know there are others out there like me. It is not in my head. It is real.
Washington, United States of America