Face 1004aI was diagnosed with AS when I was 18 after suffering for more than 2 years. I started to experience a lot of pain and problems walking when I was 15. I had facet joint injections which eased the pain, but only temporarily. So I was sent for a full body scan which indicated bilateral sacroiliitis. It was tough enduring all these investigations whilst studying at school and it started to affect my school work and relationships with my peers as I missed time off and they could not understand how something was so wrong and yet I didn’t have a diagnosis. However I remained determined I got the grades to get into my first choice at the University of Birmingham, but I had to take a year out as I had become to rely on my parents for washing, dressing, cooking and getting about. It was during this year I was diagnosed with AS. It was a relief at the time that my symptoms had a name, but I wasn’t to know how much it would affect me and change me as a person. University has been a constant challenge with living by myself and a 9-5 schedule of lectures, many of which I wasn’t able to attend. During my time there I fell ill with many other medical conditions both related and none related to the AS. In 8 years I have had 5 operations and 12 diagnoses. I now also suffer from psoriasis arthritis which is linked to the AS and causes major swelling in my hands and feet to the point where my skin splits and I am not able to bend them at all. My nails have also been badly affected with this and are falling off unfortunately the doctors doubt they will grow back. I had to take a year out during my degree as my AS flared up so much I wasn’t able to sit my exams. My rheumatologist started me on Enbrel which for a time was wonderful, however after 6 months I had an allergic reaction to the drug and had to be rushed home from university and pumped full of steroids to remove it from my system, it however has left me with quite a few lasting problems such as severe secondary Raynaud’s. I started on Humira during my 4th year and although I still suffer from a lot of pain, the swelling is better and so my mobility has improved, it has given me new hope. It has been 9 months now and so far it has caused me no problems. I finished my degree this year and now have a First Class honours Masters degree in Chemical Engineering. Researching AS and my other conditions has sparked an interest into the medical field and inspired me to help others with medical problems. I am moving to Loughborough next week to begin a PhD in Regenerative Medicine. Throughout this journey my friends and family have been such a support and although the AS is still active, with their help and each year’s experience I get better at coping through life and refuse to let this disease hold me back. I have changed so much as a person, but it’s made me appreciate the things that really matter in life, the different illnesses have enabled me to empathise with others and I’m more determined than ever. To younger people who have just been diagnosed, don’t lose hope. It may take longer and it may be more of a battle than for others, but you’ll have the greater achievement to show for it at the end.
England, United Kingdom