I am a French-Canadian, born and raised on the family farm on the outskirts of Bonnyville, Alberta. I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies, in the hopes of one day becoming a librarian. The following is a brief history of my life with AS.
My history with AS began at the age of 13, though I didn’t know it.
As is quite common, from what I read and have been told, I began to have pain in the SI joints. As a moderately obese 13 year old, I was written off as simply suffering from the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, along with a family history of overly flexible joints. In other words, my chiropractor thought my bones were sitting wrong in my hip sockets from sitting too much. As a result, I went undiagnosed for 6 years. Flareups came and went, and I came to believe my chiropractor’s diagnosis, as the flareups went away after his adjustments though the treatments were not the cause.
At the age of 19 I entered University, and moved to Edmonton. Naturally, I changed chiropractors, and was in for a bit of a shock. After a month of treatments, 3 times a week, this chiropractor, now a good friend of mine, refused to believe anything my previous chiropractor had to say, and referred me for a battery of tests. Unconvinced by the negative results of an X-ray, he sent me for a bone scan. After the bone scan gave me a 3% chance of bilateral sacroiliitis, he sent me for an MRI. The MRI confirmed that I not only had bilateral sacroiliitis but also Scheurmann’s disease and mild Scoliosis, and he put it to me bluntly that I was likely to develop AS. I thank the man for both his honesty, his suspicions, and his incredible knowledge surrounding this type of illness. I’m sure that without him, I might have gone undiagnosed for several more years.
After a bout of depression I took myself in hand, refusing to simply give up and let my body degenerate without a fight. Despite fatigue, pain, and the knowledge that I would fuse eventually, I fought back in the only way I could: I lived. I now have a bachelor’s degree in education. I’m beginning a master’s degree, joined a choir, went to France with it and sang mass in Notre Dame de Paris. I joined a TaeKwonDo group in order to stay limber and lose weight, and despite the fact that I am sometimes in too much pain to do everything properly, I get tremendous support from the instructor to continue. I sometimes wonder if I beat the depression, or if I simply fight with it. When people ask me how I am I say “I’m not dead yet”, and let them interpret it as they will. I’m not sure how I interpret it myself, some days. I wonder how people would take it if I responded honestly to the often posed question “are you ok?”.
Where I am now: as you may have noticed, at the time I hadn’t started fusing. In April 2013 my rheumatologist had me go for another X-ray, and there it was. My lower thoracic spine is now in the process of fusing, no longer requiring an MRI to track its progress. This also confirmed that I had AS for both my rheumatologist and my chiropractor. As a student, finding employment with a salary sufficient to pay rent, food and tuition is difficult outside of construction. Any job requiring heavy lifting was obviously out of the question. As a result I now work in Security Services, refusing jobs that require sitting down for too long, fearing it could aggravate my SI joints. A pleasant side effect is that I now walk — yes, WALK– 120 km a week, which keeps my SI joints mobile and relatively pain free. My goal is to keep my mid-spine as spry as possible for as long as I can.
My name is Denis Laplante, and I am a face of AS. It is a part of me, but it is not what I am. I am a teacher, a martial artist, a Bel Canto soloist and a chorist. I am a student, a security guard, and boyfriend to the most wonderful woman in the world.
I am Denis Laplante, and this, this is my face.