Ankylosing Spondylitis – The Journey

I have tried to write this article a few times before but never quite get the angle right. I want to share a journey with you. One that started when I was in my early 20s. I started to get injuries, yet I could never quite recall actually hurting myself. My flare ups were few and far between enough to justify them in some way at the time.

These attacks became more frequent and more severe as the years went on. The only way I can describe these attacks is that it is like spraining a joint really badly or braking a bone in my body, the pain lasts about 3 days or so, goes away and then comes up in another joint or bone somewhere else. This pain can get really crippling. Literally crippling. And most of the time, excruciating. There have been times where my husband has had to dress me, carry me from one place to another or nurse me with hot packs and ice packs. Over years of investigations I have heard: “it’s all in your head”, ” take these anti-depressants”, “it must be Rheumatoid Arthritis”, “you just need to exercise more”, “you just need to rest more” etc.

After 9 years of going back and forth, between I don’t know how many doctors, I was eventually diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. An autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself. Yay for my over enthusiastic immune system. I’m sure there are many people out there who would still offer up suggestions on why I don’t have it and it’s still all in my head, people can be so helpful at times, but they mean well and comment from a place of concern, I get that. However, all I can actually write about is MY truth and MY experience.

For the first 18 months post diagnosis I was prescribed Humira, an immunosuppressant, bi-weekly injection which was literally life changing for me. For the first time in years I felt like I could move again and be the mother my kids deserved. An active, physically able mother.  No more trying to explain to my small children why mommy’s hands (or knees, or feet, or back) aren’t working. I could wear shoes other than sneakers, I could even play squash again. This didn’t last though and my flare ups started to come back. After trying every diet under the sun, my last resort was to try a vegan diet. I had read the book, The China Study, and this was enough to convince me to at least give it a try before combining Humira with even more serious medications. I had nothing to lose.

Within 2 weeks my symptoms had disappeared again. And this time they weren’t coming back. And by the end of the first month the change was enough to convince me that I could never go back to my previous lifestyle. It wasn’t particularly difficult to make the change and as for all the foods I thought I couldn’t possibly give up, turns out I could. My kids and my family were all the incentive I needed to make this change.

I have been vegan now for 4 1/2 years, I have been off all my meds since April 2019. I still have the odd flare up every now and then but it’s completely manageable and not as frequent.  I would love to be able to share some of my journey with you on here which is why I wanted to give you a bit of background into my physical journey to health. I would also really like to share some of my favorite recipes on here from time to time. I know I’m not the perfect vegan or the best cook but hopefully, over time, I can get better and better and stronger and stronger.

Stay safe