My name is Gail Wolfskill. I reside in Spring, TX but am actually closer to Tomball, TX. I am 55 years of age. I have been married to my husband, Andy, for almost 33 years. He gets the joy of not only being my dearest friend and companion but of listening to my constant complaints of dealing with AS. I also have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
My symptoms began when I was 15 years of age. I used to be a monkey (not literally) but would climb every tree in town. I remember when I was about 12 climbing a friends tree and the branch I was standing on gave way. I fell about 15 feet. Many of my issues began then. My mother would have me in the chiropractors office (yes, I know now, but back then it was good) weekly. When I was older I began to experience more issues in my lower back.
When I was in my 20’s I had a couple of things happen to me that were my defining point. I had several car accidents and a surgery that left me in much pain. I know those incidents didn’t cause my AS but they didn’t help either. I remained active throughout my early adulthood and that helped with the pain issues.
I moved to the Houston area in 2001 and began having many issues. I went to one doctor after another but one would tell me something and another would dispute that other’s theory. Lucky for me I have a PCP who believed me and he kept working with me. I went to one of the doctors recommended by SAA and he told me it was Lupus. Tests ruled it wasn’t. Then he told me it might be something else but he wasn’t going to do the testing because it would be too costly. (What? I have insurance, and a very good one at that!) He just called it muskuloskeletal issues and left it at that. Frustrated, I kept searching for a rheumatologist to help me. I found a doctor close to me in 2006. She did every test known and took x-rays of almost every part of my body. Those, combined with my history, gave me a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis. After 40 years, I had my diagnosis. I even participated in a study done at UTMB in Houston that the SAA was doing. Dr. Reveille couldn’t determine my AS but a doctor in Los Angeles did. Rare, I am. I even have Dental Ankylosing. I had a bout of Iritis before I was diagnosed and my eye now has blurred vision and floaters. I suggest to get immediate attention if you even suspect Iritis.
I have been on Enbrel, Humira, and now Simponi. I want/need to stay active but the fatigue plagues me.
I suspect my mother’s family had AS but no one was ever tested. In my mother’s later years her neck was, in my opinion, fused as you couldn’t lift her head up. She was like me, always saying her back and neck hurt. My sister has the same issues as me but hasn’t been tested. One of my daughters recently had a bout of Iritis and I sought immediate attention for her. He gave some fancy medical term to her condition but when I said Iritis he looked at me stunned and agreed with me.
The things in life that give me much joy is my family, my love for gardening and photography, and visiting different places. I love Texas and driving the back roads and sipping the Texas Hill Country wines. One day I want to visit the Dead Sea and float in it and cover myself with the mud. Maybe then I will get a little relief from this pain.
Here’s to you, Cookie Hopper, for creating this place we can come and vent and ask for advice. A place to give and receive virtual hugs. A place we all have something in common.
Texas, United States of America