Ankylosing Spondylitis (Say that three times real fast!)

Ankylosing Spondylitis517One morning in 1983 I woke up in terrible pain. I found that I could not sit up, and the only way I could get out of bed was to roll out onto the floor and pull myself up with my arms. This persisted for many months, but not having any insurance I toughed it out on my own. Eventually the pain subsided, but the stiffness only got worse.

Finally, in 1990 I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an arthritic condition which destroys the connective tissue resulting in the fusing of the spine. As a result, I can no longer turn my head and have little flexibility in my back.

I decided that if I was fated to endure this condition, I might as well make a few bucks from it, so I did several comic strips and submitted them to Arthritis Today. Unfortunately, the magazine chooses to focus on rheumatoid arthritis due to the greater number of arthritis sufferers afflicted with that malady. I got a rejection letter, with a recommendation to submit my cartoons to an organization that focused on Spondylitis. The A-S people were enthusiastic, but could offer no compensation. It’s a fairly rare condition, so there isn’t much money to fund public awareness.

That was almost twenty years ago. I’m still standing, although the disease has weakened me somewhat. After living with the monster all these years, the depression doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I’m just too damn ornery to give in to that BS.

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5 Responses to Ankylosing Spondylitis (Say that three times real fast!)

  1. Chris Peterson says:

    All these years and I had no idea. I had always thought it was a car accident that caused your affliction. I am fast becoming a full-fledged member of the other camp, (rheumatoid arthritis), and it’s a real pain in the ass.

    I guess the aging of the rest of us will mean that you will “appear” normal in a group of your peers, and better adjusted to it. (Not that I can ever see myself describing you as “normal”, in the best sense of that observation.)

    Some time after noon today I will, yet again, lift a glass of scotch in your general direction, my friend.

  2. San French says:

    Boy oh boy, we should talk. I’ve got the RA…they (the experts @UCSF dept of Rheumatology) think. They still haven’t figured it out and every time I go (once every 3 mos.) they put me in front of the class (it’s a teaching college/clinic) and poke and prod me. The nearest thing to a diagnosis is ‘a severe degenerative joint and nerve disorder’. I too am severely limited in movement and have major pain issues. Luckily I tolerate pain meds very well and have help from my kids when I need it.
    Listen, I ain’t complaining. My heads always been in a good space in the face of adversity…and it sounds like yours is too. It’s called our lot in life, eh? Thanks for the share and I’m sorry the AS folks didn’t take you up on your cartoons. Humor is always the greatest way to deal with a bad hand. Keep on truckin’ Broski:-).

    • rlcrabb says:

      After all the damage Inflicted from a major car wreck and the AS, I’m still standing. It could have been much worse, so I’m thankful. I feel your pain, San…Literally. (And the cartoons were published in the AS newsletter. I just didn’t make any money from it.)

  3. steve cottrell says:

    In the mid-’70s, I was beverage manager at a country club and the men (but not the women, of course) had a card room adjacent to the bar. I had been tending bar for four years at that point and my feet and toes were killing me, constantly. I decided it was an occupational thing and about time to spend serious money on special moulded shoes.

    One morning as I was opening the bar area and getting those damn little goldfish munchies in a bowl for the card players, a heavy object fell across my right foot. It hurt like hell and I screamed. That prompted a doctor to put down his cards and step into the bar to see if I was OK. It hurt, but I told him I thought I’d be fine. He said to call his office if the pain didn’t stop in a day or two.

    A week later, feeling a sharp pain whenever I touched the toe, I broke down and made an appointment to see the good doc. After he took some x-rays, he realized my big toe was broken and several pieces of bone were floating around –– including a chunk of bone wedged in a toe joint. (It was a fascinating x-ray).

    He wanted to know how in the hell I had been able to work on my feet for a week with a smashed big toe –– especially since a fragment was jammed into one of the toe joints. I told him that my feet and toes had been hurting for so long, that I really couldn’t tell how bad the toe was until I pressed on it and felt a sharp pain. Truthfully, the pain with a broken toe wasn’t much more than I had been experiencing without a broken toe.

    After operating and removing the bone fragments, he sent me to a rheumatologist who gave me the bad news: RA. Within another 4-5 years the damn thing had spread to most all of my joints, plus my neck. I can remember sitting with Bob at more than one adult watering hole in Nevada City with me unable to turn my head to talk to him and Bob unable to turn his head toward me. We’d just turn our bodies on the barstool so we were facing each other.

    Like Bob, however, I count my blessings that although RA has affected my joints and limits my ability to walk or grab things, it has not progressed in several years. Hell, at 71, I might get lucky and ride this life to the end with the damage done, but without more damage. And I hope Bob has similar luck.

    There’s an old adage about health vs. wealth. Trust me, I’ll take health over wealth any day of the week.

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