I have struggled with intermittent back pain for over 20 years without a proper diagnosis. I always had a confirmation of what I didn't have but never one of what was actually wrong.
Three years ago, at my last visit to rheumatology, I was told that I was not likely to have AS or Ankylosing Spondylitis because I did not have a genetic marker which 95% of suffers have. It was at that point that I decided to get healthy and I took up running. Without wanting to sound dramatic, running has literally changed my life. I have lost weight, become fitter and it has given me a focus and drive through setting myself goals and achieving challenges I never thought possible. It has also reduced the amount of day to day pain and occurrence of flares of extreme pain that I have suffered for many years.
Last July, ironically the week before I completed my first triathlon, I was finally diagnosed with AS. It is a spinal inflammatory disease which will always be with me and there is no cure. Luckily for me the advice given to those diagnosed is to get fit and keep mobile, unluckily in a way is the fact that running is not recommended!
That said, running has been the best medicine for me, even when I do have the odd flare or pain. For that reason, I have set myself a new challenge of completing a 2 and a Half Park Marathon challenge. In September I will set off on the Berlin Marathon from the Teirgarten, in October I will run the Royal Parks Half Marathon and in November I will run the New York Marathon ending up in Central Park and have chosen to raise money for a charity that I have just joined and will be able to provide help for me in the future.
NASS is the only UK charity dedicated to providing advice and information to those with AS. I appreciate that there are many charities you can support but if you can spare any amount, for example, £5.00 can provide a newly diagnosed person, such as myself, with the life changing support they need through access to the NASS helpline and a comprehensive guidebook of how to deal with the condition. Please also consider sharing my fundraising page on your Facebook page so it can reach a wider audience.
One last note, I took up running at 41, and I know taking the first step in a challenge can be the hardest and scariest thing to do. That said I have found having courage, setting challenges and being consistent with them have a huge impact on the quality of my life. If you have put off anything because life is too busy, or you are worried about what other people will think just take that first step to achieve your goals. Good Luck x