I am married and mom to seven children. That is WHO I AM. I’ll get to that in a bit…
Back pain was just as much a part of my life as is my morning coffee. Loose hips (feels like my joints are jello-filled) and shoulders have always been just the way I was built! I’ve always been super flexible and overall healthy so getting finding out I had AS came as a bit of a surprise.
Back/pelvis pain was something that always seemed to really bother me around month 6 or so of each of my pregnancies (5 biological children, one is adopted, and one is an international student we took in from China) but the last pregnancy the pain started slowing me down around 3-4 months in. This pregnancy, the pain seemed much worse and I had very few breaks from it. I figured (as did my OB) it was from the stress of so many prior pregnancies and I wasn’t getting any younger! But unlike in the other pregnancies, the pain didn’t go away after having my daughter- it got even worse.
After much hesitation, I went to see an orthopedist for the back and pelvis pain. He did the usual images and said I had arthritis and a few bulging disks. He suggested a few steroid injects and physical therapy. I was also seeing a chiropractor at the time. I followed through with my ortopods suggestions for PT and steroids but the pain wouldn’t improve but seemed to be getting worse.
My orthopedist did mention surgery was an option but he didn’t feel it was a good one based on my lifestyle (being a busy mom with seven kids at home including a newborn and an 18 month old). I had already had my mind made up that I didn’t want to go down the surgery path because I had seen my own mother, and grandmother, go through dozens of back surgeries with little improvement. I didn’t want to take that journey.
Then after months of trying to cope with the pain I made an appointment with a local rheumatologist seeing as how I knew arthritis was one thing that had shown up. I didn’t go in with much hope but figured I had nothing to lose. She did an assessment of me and one thing that stood out was how there was almost no movement of my rib cage when I would take a full breath. I explained how I’ve had a very tight feeling in chest (can only describe it as a feel like when your back feels like it needs to crack- very tight) for a long time but it didn’t usually bother me too much. She took measurements and checked my joints and measured movement all over my body. She commented on how flexible I was but was concerned by my lack of ability to bend forward. She sent me to the lab with orders for what seemed like every ounce of my blood and said she’d see my in a few weeks once she had the results.
The phone call came from her nurse stating she had the results and I needed to come in to discuss them. Of course I asked if they showed anything and she said, “Well, you tested positive for the HLA-b27 marker”. I was typing it in google before she could even get off the phone and of course Ankylosing Spondylitis came up. Reading thought AS was as if it was written by me… It was ME!
I went to the follow up appointment and my rheumatologist explained AS to me and how she was confident in making that my diagnosis. That was New Year’s Eve…. 14 days ago.
I have spent the past two weeks gathering as much info as I can get my hands on. I am still nursing my daughter (it’s our special time together and that time spent is far more important that taking medications/pain control) so at time I am now planning how I want to move forward from here once I am done. Before getting diagnosed with AS my thing to look forward to after I was to be done nursing was getting new boobs, now I have Embrel to look forward too.
Wisconsin, United States of America