My name is Jeremy Henderson. I am 32 years old, and I am the face of ankylosing spondylitis. My journey “officially” began today October 29, 2012. This is the day I was finally diagnosed. Unofficially, I have been dealing with this disease for close to the last 10 years. That is just a guess though because after researching this for the last month there were signs long before that. Ten years ago I was in a pretty nasty car accident. I was ejected through the sunroof at about 55+ mph and landed square on my bottom. The whole accident to this day is still a blur, but this incident seems to be where my severe pain started. I actually thought I faired quite well. I was in the hospital for a week and faked my way through the physical so I could get back to work. My wife stayed at home with our newborn daughter, so I really couldn’t afford to take much more time off than that anyway. But honestly I didn’t feel that bad, just beat up. Within a month or so I was back playing softball and riding 4-wheelers, good as new. But then within the next year I started getting terrible (there really isn’t a word in the English dictionary I feel adequately describes it), terrible pain in my hips. I couldn’t tell you when it was going to happen. One minute I would be walking fine, then Bam, I would drop straight to the ground. It felt like bone grinding on bone and it would last anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days. I was taking over the counter medication like candy before my wife finally talked me into seeing our family doctor. She contributed it to my car accident, gave me a shot of prednisone, prescribed my some vicoden, and sent me on my way. And thus started my dependence on prescription pain killers. Not that I have ever abused them, thankfully they make that really difficult to do anyway. At that time I only needed pain meds when my hips would flare up, so I really didnt take them that often. As the days went on though I started having a really hard time sleeping. I work 12 hour shifts so going to sleep wasn’t an issue, but I’ll be damned if I couldn’t stay asleep for more than 3 hours at a time. I would wake up so stiff I would have to roll out of bed. I would get up, take a pill, stand in the shower till the water ran cold, and go back to bed. After a few years of this, and a few more doctors, I was referred to a pain management doctor. At the time this man seemed like my savior. He believed me. The problem I had was that I was a young free spirit with a lot of tattoos, which usually led people to believe that I was just trying to get a script. This has been the most frustrating part of my journey. When you know with every ounce of your being that something is wrong with you but no one believes you. I did not want pills. I just wanted to be normal again. I wanted to be able to sit and watch a movie with my kids and not be miserable. I wanted to wake up late for work and not have to have my wife put my socks on for me. I just wanted to be me again, but that goal seemed further and further from atainable. I gave up being honest about my pain level years ago because the solution was just stronger pain meds. I didnt’t wanna be a zombie. I just wanted to live my life. Finally a month ago, with a very angry call from my very awesome wife, I got a referral to a Rheumatologist (a very awesome Dr by the way). It took 2 visits, a blood test, and an x-ray to confirm that I have AS. This seemed to be a double edge sword for me so to speak. I always knew in the back of my mind there was no “fix” for me, but there was always hope. Now I at least have an explanation, and I have a list of dozens of doctors whos noses I would love to rub in it. I just started methotrexate this week. My Rheumy has 0 confidence it will help me, but I guess I have to go through the steps for my insurance to pay for the tnf blockers. I feel like I ended a long journy and am now embarking on a new, hopefully better, one. I have a fantastic supportive wife, so regardless I know I will be fine.
Indiana United States of America