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
the insurmountable exhaustion,
the guilt of falling short as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a teacher,
the grief over the life I should have had,
the fear of what might be happening to my body was
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,
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.
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