Hello, my name is Jill Rowton, from , Michigan, USA. It’s truly an honor to be included in this project – I have read every entry, and it has been so inspiring to me. I was diagnosed with AS at age 35, after many years of strange and frustrating issues – pleurisy, shoulder pain, low back pain, sciatica, blurry eyes, foot pain, and more. The worst thing was a painful hip joint that caused me to limp from the time I was 17, and this later proved to be the key in discovering what the real problem was. Doctors were confused by what they saw – the diagnoses were depression, scoliosis, spina bifida, ruptured/herniated disc, rheumatoid arthritis, and my favorite of all – nothing! It’s all in your imagination. Many years later, after an orthopedic surgeon saw me walk in the hospital waiting room (my husband had shoulder surgery), he asked me what was wrong with my hip. I just shrugged and said it was a bad back, but he shook his head and told me to come see him immediately for an evaluation. So an appointment was made. After an exam and x-ray, he confirmed what he had already suspected – the cartilage on my left hip was completely gone, and I would need a hip replacement. This was hard for me to take, but what was confusing at that point was how did this happen to a young person like myself? The surgeon suggested that I see a rheumatologist to find out the cause. After a visit with a very kind rheumatologist, the mystery was solved – AS! My hip was replaced 8 ½ years ago, with much success. I wish I could say the same with my AS – I’ve been on Remicade, then Humira, and now Enbrel. I do miss Remicade, but the extreme side effects made it dangerous for me to continue. Enbrel, along with my hip replacement, has enabled me to take care of my family to the best of my ability, and for that I am very grateful. Having AS has not made me feel sorry for myself, rather, I look at it as a daily challenge. Asking myself, “What CAN I do today?” instead of saying “I CAN’T do this today!” has helped me tremendously. Being a former type-A ambitious personality who worked nonstop for years, it was hard at first, but now it’s easier to say no when necessary and just breathe. My family helps me so much, and I am so grateful to them. We have cats, chinchillas, guinea pigs and degus, and they have made life even more fun and interesting – animals are such a comfort and this has helped me too in so many ways. If there’s any positive things that could be said about having AS, it would be that because of it, I have learned to have even more compassion for others, and I have also learned patience and endurance. And finally, I learned to sit back and enjoy the lovely things in life that were probably missed before.
Michigan, United States of Michigan