Paul M., 45 | Philadelphia
My name is Paul and I was first diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in 2001. For more than 20 years, my excruciating back pain was misdiagnosed, often as a herniated disk.
I loved playing football, basketball and baseball, but my back pain started creeping up and forced me to the sidelines. I started seeing doctors and treated my pain with anti-inflammatories and tried strengthening my back and core with physical therapy. I didn't want to give up sports, so I would play through the pain. But it kept coming back, so I finally stopped playing sports altogether.
In college, I had such extreme pain that I couldn't stand up straight. Guys would have to be on each side of me so I could get going; my back would be stuck. I continued with physical therapy and started taking painkillers and muscle relaxers. At one point, I was in the hospital because the pain was so intolerable. I took a year off from college before coming back and getting my degree.
In 1990, I got married. Unfortunately, when we started raising a family, the brunt of the child rearing fell to my wife. My chronic back pain prevented me from being a hands-on parent; bending over, playing with the kids and picking them up was out of the question.
The pain got increasingly worse. I finally saw an orthopedic doctor who thought I may have ankylosing spondylitis.
I was referred to a rheumatologist, who confirmed my diagnosis.
My rheumatologist mentioned that there was a new drug out for treating AS called HUMIRA, and if I wasn't afraid of needles, I should try it. He went over all the dangers and side effects with me and I tried it. I started doing the HUMIRA injection and noticed results within a few weeks.
I really want to help educate others about AS so that they don't have to go through what I went through. The more people that know about the disease, the better. People need to understand what AS is and how best to manage it.
Two pieces of advice to others with AS: Take the medication on a regular basis. Don't stop taking it because you feel good. And two, you need to be active. Do your exercises and try to do your stretches.