My 3 Peaks Challenge
Have you ever stepped on a plug?
Hurts doesn't it? As I stepped out of bed that's what I thought I'd done.
I realised it was my left heel causing a shooting pain up my leg.
The usual questions came into my mind. Had I over done it in the gym? Do I have flat feet? Am I wearing the right shoes?
The pain subsided a little with some painkillers but it recurred on and off for months. I also started noticing other pains. Neck, back, knees - I tossed and turned in bed all night and couldn't sit still at work or the sofa. I was feeling very much out of sorts.
Having been in the Territorial Army for my university life and being quite active at the weekends I shrugged off the pain - but deep inside I had a feeling something was up and I was burying my head in the sand about it.
One Saturday morning the heel pain came back with vengeance. As I lived near a local hospital I hobbled down there and checked into A&E. I asked if I could have an X-Ray because it felt like a bone fracture. They said the wait would be long. I said, 'Not to worry. It's Saturday. I've got all day.' Luckily for me the A&E doctor on call was a rheumatologist. I had offered an explanation of possible plantar fasciitis to him, but a blood test later showed the news, aged 27 years old - I had ankylosing spondylitis.
At first it hit like a bolt out of the blue - the prospect of fusing bones, a bent back in old age and years of pain. I was really upset and the self-diagnosed internet stuff out there is scary to say the least. At the same time I split from my girlfriend of 4 years and decided to attempt Macchu Picchu in Peru. I continued to hit the bars and clubs of London. I was in denial.
In 2005 I met the woman who would eventually become my wife and began running and cycling and pretty much returned to a good level of fitness and exercise from the lowest point of my illness when I needed physical help to get out of bed.
I still go out clubbing and work as a DJ in London, as well as working in a hectic job at the Daily Mail newspaper. Despite feeling very fatigued from time to time, my mental ability to cope with this condition has improved greatly. My physical fitness means I feel about as robust as I ever have and having led a team of people up one of the most challenging things I have ever done - the 3 Peaks Challenge - I'm already planning the next big trip in 2012. AS isn't going to stop me living my life and my advice to anyone is to be active and stay positive. There are many people going through AS. You're not alone.