I’m 51 yrs. old, and was diagnosed in 2001. However my symptoms started in 1993 while I was Active Duty military. After numerous MRI’s, X-Rays, etc. the military thought it was either a pinched nerve or slipped disk. A lot of “Air Force” M&M’s” (Motrin), and Toridal injections, with no relief, I just learned to deal with it. Retired in 1998, and finally found a doctor that had a clue. The amazing part is that he was an Active Duty A.F. doctor. Even though by regulations he was not allowed to make the diagnosis of AS. Thankfully, he was able to obtain a referral to a local Rheumatologist; this is after almost 3 more years of dealing with the pain and worsening ability to work and “Day- To – Day” functions. After being seen by the Rheumatologist, he diagnosed me within 10 minutes. Amazing how a “ civilian doctor can realize what you have, after only a few simple test, but the DOD with all their vast resources could not , or were not willing to make a diagnosis for almost 10 years.
This were the real headaches began. Even though I had been diagnosed with AS, I still had to be diagnosed by doctors in the VA system. In 2002, after many test, any lots of miles, the VA finally deemed me disabled at 70%. However, Social Security was a completely different situation. I was turned down twice, even though I had over 9 years of documentation and approved disability through the VA and DOD. It just amazes me how 2 agencies that work for the same government have completely different rules for disability. I finally hire a lawyer and filed for a third time with Social Security, with final approval by them after a medical hearing. Once that was approved, the VA left me at 70% disabled, but 100% Unemployable. This means that all my medical treatment is handled through the VA. I must admit I am grateful for the VA, and the professionals that are there to take care of and support me.
As far as my personal side of AS, I have the support of my lovely wife of 30 yrs., and 3 amazing daughters. I would be lost or no longer around if it were not for them. They are my “Heart and Soul”, even though there are occasions that my AS turns into..as my wife puts it “Asshole Syndrome”. However ,they understand my frustration of not being able to do the things I use to and want to. I’m not religious, but am beyond thankful and grateful for my family and all the individuals that I have spoken to and/commented on each other’s posts on Facebook. I still try to live by 2 simple rules. “Never Give Up, or Give In” , and “Stand Tall”. Please remember all of us are Ankylosing Spondylitis Survivors not Sufferers!!!