Sara Wier

Face 2103

My Story:
I was diagnosed with AS about 4 years ago. I was working in a microbiology laboratory in college where we got to work on many different staining techniques for examining many different types of bacteria. So, it wasn’t a surprise when I came down with a pretty bad respiratory infection that fall. Little did I know that this infection would change my life forever.
My AS started out as elbow and neck stiffness. I couldn’t straighten my elbow or move my neck from side to side. I had difficulty sleeping because I couldn’t sleep on my sides or stomach, which I was used to. I went to the doctor when I went home for Christmas. The doctors weren’t sure what was wrong, but they subscribed some anti-inflammatory medications which seemed to help.
While on Christmas break, I helped my family out at our chocolate store, working on my feet for long hours, so when my feet started to ache, I assumed it was my uncomfortable shoes or the long hours on my feet. Over the next few weeks my feet got so painful and swollen I could hardly walk or fit them into my shoes. What normally took me 10 minutes to walk to class would take 30. I was in so much pain, I was constantly grumpy and I didn’t like who I was starting to become. A guest speaker once told me “Hurt people, hurt people,” which resonated more with me than I think he knew.
I had trouble standing, bending down, or doing simple chores like laundry or cooking. I soon went to the doctor because I knew something was wrong. Luckily they tested me for HLA-B27 and quickly referred me to a rheumatologist. It wasn’t long before my rheumatologist told me I had Ankylosing Spondylitis. He sent me home with a stack of papers and an initial treatment plan, which included taking 9 Advil a day.
I was confused. I never had any back pain and I had never heard of Ankylosing Spondylitis. When I thought of arthritis I thought, like most people, that arthritis only affected the elderly. AS is genetic. My grandmother had osteoarthritis, but there was no other reason for me to suspect my diagnosis. Why do I have arthritis? A question I still do not have an answer for.
Over the course of the next 3 months my rheumatologist had figured out a treatment plan that worked for me. Within 6 months I could run again. I had forgotten how it had felt to run and I got so much joy from being able to be active and enjoy the activities I love, like playing basketball and hiking. I had received a gift in disguise.
My condition improved and I recently graduated with a masters in biomedical engineering. I work at a medical device company designing new and exciting devices to help people like myself with many different medical conditions that don’t have cures.
My AS is invisible, though I experience pain on a daily basis and have permanent joint damage in my feet. Just because AS isn’t always visible, doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. I have good and bad days, depending on how much I push myself. I have recently had to stop playing basketball, which I have been playing since I was in elementary school, due to hip pain. My rheumatologist and I have hoped that over time, I could come off of my medication or reduce my dose. However, it seems unlikely even though the side effects can be serious.
More than anything AS has given me a renewed joy for life. I realize that I might not be able to do the things that I love forever so I make it a point to do as much as I can, while I can. I have a passion for helping others and am trying to use my AS to do so. I have become involved in the Arthritis Foundation through fundraising, volunteering, and participating in events. Next year I am participating in a 525 mile bike ride down the coast of California from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise awareness of arthritis and raise money to help find a cure! I also hope to spread more awareness of AS within the Arthritis Foundation.
I am grateful for AS because even though it has caused me pain, it has shown me all the things I have to be grateful for and who I really am. I am a completely different person than I was four years ago, and I have my AS to thank.
Thank you so much for reading my story! You have given people a platform to tell how AS has affected them and even if no one else reads our stories, you have helped us all. I hope my story can help others as well!
If you or anyone you know would like to donate to the Arthritis Foundation and help me participate in the Central California Coast (CCC) bike ride, please follow the link below (all proceeds are tax deductible):
Please let me know if you have any questions or would like any additional information!

One Response to “Sara Wier”

  1. Dear Sara,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
    Sincerely Cookie

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