I’m sure when you were diagnosed with AS you thought ‘what does this mean for my future and my relationship?’ That thought certainly crossed my mind as I sat in my doctors office listening to my test results.
My boyfriend Ben and I had been together a few years prior to my diagnosis, we had planned a lovely romantic break to a cottage far away, but first we had to get the dreaded doctor’s appointment out of the way. I remember listening to my diagnosis back in 2015 and thinking, ‘I’m only 20, I can’t even pronounce this condition; ank…. ankly… ankylosing something or other, let alone deal with what lifestyle changes and hospital appointments it brings’.
We walked back to the car and all I remember is bursting into tears. I was so overwhelmed with emotions; wondering whether our relationship was strong enough to take on AS. The answer is yes, it was and still is strong enough. Don’t get me wrong, we have had so many obstacles to overcome as a couple, and there’s been good times and bad ones, but we’ve got through the past two years.
Our cottage trip really helped me come to terms with the diagnosis, because let’s face it, it isn’t easy at all. I was expecting not be able to live the life of a 20-year-old, but when I look back over the past few years, I have had so many experiences which I haven’t let my AS and other conditions control. I think it’s so important to carry on living, and making sure you don’t let life pass you by.
Ben and I took a trip to Paris back in August 2016, and ventured to the Eiffel Tower. I could have easily taken the lift straight up like a lot of people that day, but instead I insisted on climbing the 704 steps up. At points I thought, ‘Why on earth have I decided to do this?’ but Ben knew how important climbing up the tower was to me, and his encouragement was what got me up those 704 steps that day. I was so fragile when we reached the second floor, but the sense of achievement was unbelievable. I knew if I hadn’t completed this personal achievement on that day there might be a chance that when I came back my condition might have got worse, and I wouldn’t have been able to ever say I climbed the Eiffel tower.
I’m not saying that life with AS is easy as a couple, because it really isn’t. There’s been days where I have struggled getting out of bed in the morning, and that’s been tough. But we got through those, we just try to find light in every situation. I know it’s difficult at first, but honestly things will get easier. If not easier, then you will become stronger.
Being diagnosed was a hard time for me, but also remember it’s a hard time for your partner too. They too must adapt and make lifestyle changes; attending appointments, learning the jargon attached to medication, scans and joints like the sacroiliac joint (which we never heard of before AS). The emotional strain to always perk someone up can become tiring, and for things to work you really must both try and remain positive, carrying on with your normal life.
AS has made us stronger, it has made us realise just how much you care for each other. It really isn’t all negative; I have met some amazing friends through NASS who are also young people, going through what you’re going through. We have even involved the children we work with, raising money through bake sales and things. Ben is so supportive, without him I honestly don’t think I would be so positive.
In a way, I think we both try to find the humour in everyday life; Ben has come to terms with the fact that I now have a list of chronic conditions as long as my arm, and that some days I resemble an 80-year-old lady, and some days I may just lie there and resemble a sloth. I never thought I would feel this happy in a relationship being diagnosed with AS, but we are coming up to five years together and that just proves that anyone can conquer AS if you have support, love and a life worth living.
Poppy is a 21 year old student from Manchester, currently studying Inclusive Education and Disability Needs BA Hons at MMU. She’s also diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and Fibromyalgia, but refuses to let them get in the way of her passion for travelling and fundraising for NASS with her boyfriend Ben. You can find Poppy on Instagram @w0nderw1nder and on twitter at @poppymaelangxxx