A.S. Face 2063: Loren

Face 2063

My name is Loren and I am 69 years old.  The first mention of AS came in 1968 when an iritis flare up prevented me from taking my draft physical.  While there was no marker of AS at the time, I believe the physician who treated me and who wrote a letter to the draft board may have mentioned AS; two weeks later with no explanation the Selective Service Administration classified me 4-F.  One of the unexpected benefits of AS was avoiding service in Viet Nam.  I wonder now if it was all worth it.

Over the next decade, I experienced increasing and frequent severe pain in my thoracic spine area as the ankylosing of the spine progressed.  There were times when I could not get out of a car.  I was on massive doses of Prednisone for 3 years.  it shows in my wedding pictures of 1972.

In the late 1970’s I finally found a Rheumatologist who identified my condition.  Thus began a lifetime of NSAIDS and diets and exercise.  The AS progressed and my neck began to tip forward to a noticeable degree.  But I adapted, as we all do, to the changes that this disease will cause.   Swimming during this time was most helpful.

The 1980’s was a relatively quiet time for my AS.  I continued to adapt to the changes in my body and the different medications that were introduced.  My inflammation levels remained quite high and I tried numerous medications from NSAIDS to Sulfasalazine.   Each worked for a while to help quiet the inflammation but the disease continued to progress.  In the 1990’s the fusing of the vertebrae in my spine had progressed to the lumbar region.  I fought through the condition and attempted to maintain a quality of life in between the Iritis flare-ups and the aching in my back and neck.  Deliberate periods of rest were most helpful.

As the new century began my disease managed to lodge in my colon and the first episodes of Crones disease appeared.  This was very difficult for me as it impacted my life in new and difficult ways.  Deliberate rest helped me to adapt but the Crones took over for the AS.  Eventually, I was treated with Remicade, a biologic infusion, which helped to quiet the Crones.  Since then I have been on biennial colonoscopies and tests.

Next week, the AS will have a reached a new all-time high of low for me as I will undergo a laminectomy of the L-4/5 and subsequent fusion of the L-5 vertebrae.  The AS has so compromised my spinal cord that the nerves are now severely pinched rendering me unable to walk more than 30 yards.  This surgery should help but it comes with complications.  In order to complete it successfully, I have to stop all my anti-inflammatory medications and some pain medications in order to facilitate the fusing of the bone in my spine.  How ironic that after all these years I now must look forward to my spine being fused.

Through it all AS has never gotten the better of me.  I live a good life.  I had a great profession as a high school principal.  I am married to a wonderful woman who I helped guide through her recovery from pancreas cancer.  I have two wonderful children and two fantastic grandsons.   I’ve learned to adapt and carry on.  I am a face of AS.


2 Responses to “A.S. Face 2063: Loren”

  1. Dear Loren,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
    Sincerely Cookie

  2. Chin up! The fusion surgery does work. I had mine March 2013 due to slippage of L4 off of L5, and pinched nerves causing bowel and bladder problems I have felt good until recently. My legs go numb when i lie on my back and i get a pain in my right thigh so bad i cant move my leg to walk… however if i bend over at the waist to ‘reset’ my back, the pain goes away – indicating i once again have pinched nerves. The past 2 weeks i have been getting electrical charge feelings down my legs when i stand up.
    I pray your surgery goes well for you!

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