My name is Pip and I am a 23 year old actress and model from the Midlands, UK. I first started getting the agonising back pain when I was just 17 and was actually diagnosed with sciatica. About a year later, I started getting problems in my left eye; swelling, inflammation, photosensitivity, loss of sight…I was diagnosed with conjunctivitis. That was until I was in so much pain, I had to go to hospital and sent to an emergency eye clinic where they said I was suffering from a severe case of iritis. Safe to say, it was caught so late into the inflammation, I’m still on drops nearly 5 years down the line. Unfortunately, I can’t have the injections that would help due to a cataract forming and they would just make it worse. Constant drops also mean my pressure is always high in my eye and this has to be controlled by going to hospital every 4 weeks for scans and tests. I’m very aware that my pupil is deformed and my iris is a different colour to my right eye now, I’m almost completely blind in my left eye too. This bothered me before, but iv embraced the fact that my eyes look slightly different.
It wasn’t until a year ago, that I went travelling in Australia and had a huge flare up. I could hardly move without crying. So I went to hospital where the doctor looked at me and said there is no way I had sciatica. Immediately they did a blood test and 3 MRI scans. It came back that I had AS. It comes to something when you have to move to the other side of the world to be diagnosed with such a serious condition! They began transferring me to Rheumatologists and Physio’s. Unfortunately, I had to come back home due to lack of funds and so my Aussie consultant wrote a letter that I could give to my UK consultant to explain everything. When I got home, I went straight to the doctor…a year later and I’ve got my first rheumatology appointment this month. If it wasn’t for moving to Oz, I doubt I would have ever been diagnosed with AS until it was too late, so I am so unbelievably grateful to the Aussie Medicare for a diagnosis and all the help they gave me.
I have a very physically demanding job as an actor. On stage I can forget that I suffer every day from this condition. My day job is as an entertainer at the Sealife Centre Birmingham and they do everything in their power to help me out if I am having any problems. However, I have never taken a day off sick. I have even gone to work on crutches, just so I can prove to my employers, friends, family and myself, that I can do it. If you have the positivity, the will power and optimistic attitude, you can do anything! Just believe in yourself and smile, there’s always a way to be happy.
Philippa Kingscote-Davies, 23.
AS sufferer, Actor, Model, Traveller and Believer.
England, United Kingdom