You Are Reading This Because You Have Ankylosing Spondylitis

AS is a thief, a trickster and a really crappie life-partner. AS has no moral compass and absolutely no compassion. Its lack of empathy is only matched with its intense perseverance.

It takes hold and never lets go…even if you have episodes of remission, this disease is lying in wait.

Although it is true that chronic illnesses do not affect all patients in the same way, Ankylosing Spondylitis is known to cause inflammation, pain and fatigue.

AS disrupts our daily activities, our plans and our ability to maintain relationships and often work. Chronic illness can bring depression, anxiety and a sense of being alone.

Some of will dig deep and find strength we never knew had before. Our strength may come in our determination to get out of bed, to join a “Walk Your A.S. Off” team and count our steps.

Our strength may come in our ability to simply take the day minute-by-minute. Some of us will accept life with a chronic illness with amazing grace and some of us will fight, scream and rebel against this disease.

Some of us will be still and silent. Some of us will discover a level of activism that they never knew they had. Some of us will learn to be compassionate with ourselves.

All of us must go through our own rabbit hole of getting used to life with a chronic illness.

First we have to learn how to even pronounce our disease (my 6-year-old child mastered it before my husband and I did!)

We all have asked “How did this happen?” or “Why me?” or even, “How did I not figure this out earlier?

There may be no real answers to these questions. There are times that rational thought cannot address irrational happenings. You did nothing to acquire this disease—it was in you.

This disease was written in your DNA and when the “ON” switch was hit, it took advantage of you. This disease may be part of your family tree or you may be the one and only—either way, I hope that the branches of your tree support you. I hope those boughs cradle you with comfort and understanding.

You have suffered. Suffering brings out anger and sadness. You have the right to be sad, you have earned the right to weep and you have earned the right to scream and throw a fit.

This disease brings physical changes and emotional ones. Please give yourself the freedom to be muddled and emotional.

You have earned the right to be depressed. You have also earned the right to reach out for help.

There are members of this online community that will support you without question or judgement. Please be kind to yourself.

Your self-image may change. There is a strong chance that you will look at yourself through a different lens, but please remember that you are special.

You are strong. True, you may not be the same person you once thought yourself to be—but the truth is, right now, you are a better person that you ever imagined you could be.

You are alive. You are a fighter. You are an AS Warrior.

Submitted by Karen Swank-Fitch
Morgan Hill, CA, USA
Team Fitch Feet

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Karen Fitch

Karen Swank-Fitch captains Team Fitch Feet in their second year participating in WYASO. Her family is based in Northern California. A former educator, she is now a dedicated stay-at-home-mother and community organizer and volunteer. Raising her 3rd grade son is one of the greatest joys she has ever known. She's been with her husband for 15 remarkable years. Karen was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in mid-2013. Admittedly, it was not the summer she had planned for her family. Through education and support from her medical team and her family, friends and community, plus sheer will, she has become a vocal warrior in her battle against A.S. She is a genuinely upbeat woman and learning this new paradigm has slowed her down. She looks at the lessons she is learning about herself, her body, and how she fits into her world. Presently she's working on a manuscript of poems that deal with the grieving aspect of facing a life altering disease. When she's not enveloped in her role and wife/mother/warrior, she can be found volunteering her time.

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2 Comments

  1. Christina Lowe

    on May 11, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Reply

    That is absolutely amazing, and pretty much on point. It took me a while to stop fighting myself and come to terms with the fact that I have to live with this disease, and I have to figure out how to pronounce it! I think it was when I started having other A.S and SpA related complications that I really had to come to terms with the disease. Since then, I have done tons of research and like you said in your article, became very proactive in trying to stay positive and inform people about my condition. I really enjoyed reading your article. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.

  2. Karen Swank-Fitch

    on May 12, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Reply

    Hi. It is a process, for sure. Everyone brings their own tools and personality to the discovery and naming of this disease. It is transformative in so many ways. Please keep up the good work that you are doing in self-care and awareness.

    K

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