Christina McDaniel

10 Years

Christina McDaniel - Hope & Apples

I survived AS for ten years without a diagnosis.
It ravaged my body, starting with my lower back and hips,
progressing into my ankles and feet,
then to my clavicles, shoulders, neck, upper back, and jaw.
It is the terror that left me sleepless, night after night.

Its strength, crippling.

I dragged myself from one Specialist to another, crying for someone to hear me, to diagnose me…  to believe me.  Each doctor’s visit led to a devastating dead end.  My pain was dismissed with a full range of prescription medications.  The meds produced side effects that complicated my symptoms, and the pain


The Rheumatologist called it an unknown injury due to Hypermobility.
The Chiropractor told me to lose weight, and my body would heal.
The Neurosurgeon wanted to operate, but not yet.
The Podiatrist bound my feet, over and over again.
The Orthopedic Surgeon diagnosed Tendonitis.
The Non-Surgical Spinal Disorder Specialist refused to test for AS because, “it hardly occurs in women.”
The Family Practitioner suggested supportive shoes.
The Pain Management Specialist suspected drug dependence.
The Physical Therapist

gave up.

The pain,

the isolation,

the depression,

the insurmountable exhaustion,

the guilt of falling short as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a teacher,

the self-doubt,

the grief over the life I should have had,

the fear of what might be happening to my body was

too much.

After ten years, I couldn’t fight any longer.  The pain encompassed my entire body.

I couldn’t move.

I couldn’t eat.

I couldn’t hear one more doctor tell me nothing was wrong.

I wouldn’t take one more ineffective pill for the pain.

Hope was lost.

Dragging myself through the hallway, a coworker noticed my struggle.
He noticed because it was once his struggle.
“You must be tested for AS,” he said.
Simultaneously, my sister was experiencing symptoms.

The mismatched pieces of my painful puzzle were forming into the answer I had been seeking for 10 years.

A possible diagnosis  –  there was my HOPE.

My body was depleted,
overwhelmed with pain,
unable to function.

My mom took up my fight.

She found the best Rheumatologists,

scheduled appointments,

and sat by my side in every doctor’s office.

Finally, the day came:
“You have AS.”

It was a kick in the stomach

Because this is forever!

But it was relief!

The past 10 years of Hell are over.
I have an answer.
The pain wasn’t in my head!
The doctors that made me feel crazy were wrong.

I’ve started treatment,
I’ve been given a second chance.
I can lift my arms to hug my husband.
I can dance.
Sometimes, I can run!

I’m thankful for healing.
I’m thankful for the love of family.

I’ve found my HOPE.

Artist’s Statement:

Searching through the emotional and physical struggle of the past 10 years was a daunting task; however, transferring the pain to paper was cathartic, and brought renewed hope.  I appreciate the opportunity to express my AS experience in a positive outlet, which will hopefully shed light on the suffering that so many of us live.

My apple is a mound of prescription pill bottles, each representing the medications I was given to appease my pain, and dismiss a true diagnosis. The labels are imprinted with the cutting words I received from one doctor after the next – refusing to find the cause – and attributing my debilitating pain to slight scoliosis, hypermobility, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and weight.  The leaf represents countless doctors’ signatures, authorizing more ineffective medications.  The text lining the hills represents endless “professional opinions,” equating to a lifetime of pain and despair.

I am the figure located in the center of this overwhelming composition, focusing my gaze on the horizon – representing a hopeful tomorrow.  When all was lost, my hope came from the love of family and friends who never left my side.  Hope came from a coworker who first told me about Ankylosing Spondylitis. Finally, hope came from a doctor who heard my struggle, saw my broken body, and refused to stop testing until he found the answer.

After ten, long, lifeless years – HOPE was an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

New Orleans, Louisiana U.S.A.

My Story & Apple

My Blog – full of recipes that bring energy and life to the body, and more of my story.

My Church – live internet broadcast via Facebook, and a constant source of hope.

New Orleans Louisiana United States of America

6 Responses to “Christina McDaniel”

  1. Dear Christina,

    Words fail me, this has to be the most amazing and powerful video I have ever had the honor of hearing. It didn’t just touch my heart but it reached my soul. It took me back to the struggles I had trying to find out what was wrong with me, reminding me how much I have overcomed in my battle with A.S. Thank you for having the courage and talent to speak for all of us.
    I will be forever grateful to you for completing your vision and sharing it with all of us.

    Sincerely, Cookie

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is very important that we all know we are in this together. I am looking at your pictures through the years and its great you were able to slim down! Its a constant battle for me. I am getting a Lap Band placed in 2 weeks to help me. I hope you will share you success too 🙂


  3. Your story is so familiar!! I was finally diagnosed by a new ophthamologist after my 3rd bout with iritis and almost 15 years of “unexplainable” pain from my neck to my hips. He sent me to a rheumatologist and she confirmed it. It is such a relief to know we’re not crazy! 🙂

  4. This touched me to the bottom of my heart and soul. It is your struggle, but it is so very similar to my own. Thank you for putting into words what I could not.

  5. I love how you wrote your story! I loved your video more – thank you for sharing in the most beautiful way! I am very thankful for those who can express the painful experiences of AS in ways that touch us all!

  6. Your art cut right to my soul. I know the shadow figure, you put to colour what I have felt, and not had words to describe. The emotion in the figure is overwhelming……the composition, perfect. Thank you for sharing, It really connected with me, and my struggle. I had no idea so many people were effected with this, and with stories so much like mine it is chilling. I hope you continue to find inspiration and have an avenue for your talent. Your story was touching, and I am glad to hear and read that you have strength and HOPE. Thank-you

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