My name is Jessica, I am 26 years old, I live in Southern New Jersey and I have AS. I have experienced pain for as long as I can remember. I come from a military background so maintaining a “no pain no gain” mentality has always been our way. After going to many specialists at the age of 15 and on, I was told to “grin and bare it”. I thought my parents were right…no answer must mean that I am being weak. So I did just that, I put hat fake smile on and tried to pull myself through life. After getting engaged and wanting to join the military myself, I started with an intense work out routine and told myself that I couldn’t take it easy b/c basic training wouldn’t be easy on me. My body quickly gave out on me, and back to the specialists I went. The doctors kept shifting me from DR. to DR. when finally, after 3 years, one had said my fingers look rather arthritic and I should see a Rheumotologist. And just like that, after some testing I am finally told a name to my imprisoner; AS. It is unbelievable what those simple letters meant to me. I finally had an answer. I also found out that the AS was able to attack my body after contracting a bacterial infection in my stomach at the age of 12 that landed me in the hospital for quite some time… I haven’t been weak, but STRONG! And now, after looking at how I tried to keep my pain hidden from those around me for so long, I now want to stand proud of who I am. And honestly, without the support of the other courageous “faces of AS”, I would not have the strength to stand up right now and shout “MY NAME IS JESSICA, AND I HAVE AS!!!” Thank all of you for lending a hand when I needed it most.