My name is Kimberly Herrick and I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2012, a few weeks before my 50th birthday.
I have suffered with the symptoms of AS since I was quite young. It simply amazes me that so many doctors overlooked AS so many times over the years.
My symptoms start with what my Aunt called “growing pains”. These pains were mainly in my hips and legs. I would writhe in pain and my family would ‘walk’ me and give me aspirin and later Tylenol for the pain. I was told I would grow out of the growing pains, but they never fully went away. I would also develop severe pain and swelling in joints. My aunt would tell me i had a cold in my joint.
I suffered from severe low back and hip pain in my early teens that affected my walking. I would wake up in the mornings with stiffness and swelling in my hands and stiffness and pain in my back I would by routine, head straight to the hottest showers I could stand to loosen me up and relieve the pain. I received physical therapy treatment for pain in my hips at the age of 14. The therapist educated me in the cycle the inflammation and inflamed nerves in my spine. He used massage, heat and electrical stimulation to treat my pain. He taught me stretches for my back that I practiced religiously until late pregnancy with my third child. I was very athletic and active up to that point.
When I was eighteen, I awoke one morning to severe pain in my neck. When I awakened, I could hardly move my neck. My neck was visibly swollen and I could not turn my head from left to right. I was diagnosed as a strained neck, and treated with Tylenol, ice and heat with a cervical collar. It took a couple of weeks for this to resolve. I’ve experienced similar neck issues throughout my life. It always starts with “a cold” in my neck.
I started experiencing pain in my throat and neck not long after an appendicitis attack. I went from Dr to Dr with no success. After a year of many different doctors I was diagnosed and treated surgically for a Thyro-glossal duct cyst that had burst and become infected. During the year long battle to get the neck issue figured out, my arthritis type symptoms also ramped up and I developed intestinal issues. Extreme fatigue and joint pain plagued me. A Rheumatologist prescribed planquel, for what she diagnosed as non specific connective tissue disease. Lab results showed that I had a positive ANA, high SED rate and positive Rheumatoid factor. I figured curing the infection and abscess would make my symptoms stop. Over the years I would continue to experience flares and was never was able to be pain free for more than a week or two. I found the more I exercised the better I felt. I exercised at the gym using low impact machines and walked quite often around the hills of my Gold Country home. My favorite exercise machine was and still is the elliptical. Severe fatigue continued to plague me and when I was in my early 40’s. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis when I was 45. I again assumed that the Thyroid disease was the primary cause of my constant aches and fatigue. Though I improved slightly, again the burning in my joints and extreme fatigue remained. As time progressed so did the level of pain and fatigue. For the last 10 years I have been unable sleep on my back or sit in many chairs due to severe hip pain and spasms. Thermacare, heating pads and ice packs are good friends to have around.
I have almost always worked full time, I raised three children, renovated three houses and performed in a band with my husband of 25 years. I have found music to be a great analgesic. Though I might crash afterwards, when I’m performing music I often feel no pain or regain strength until the music stops and the high wears off. I adore gardening because I love enjoying the beauty of plants and flowers. I have suffered a few injuries in the last year including a bad fall that injured my right knee, and an auto accident that injured my already painful neck. My Rheumy is an angel to me. When I finally found someone who could identify what was wrong with me I was hanging on by a thread.
Now I’m educating myself and working towards healing. I have an amazing and supportive family. My heart goes out to anyone who is suffering this lonely disease without proper diagnosis and treatment. No one who is suffering with AS should be led to think its all in their head. Let’s spread the word about AS.
Napa California United States of America