Last December, pro climbers Joe Kinder and Colette McInerney came to Chattanooga to check out the climbing. While here they put together a short Sterling Rope video about my life climbing with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s an autoimmune arthritis that affects your hips and back. It’s in the same family of diseases as Rheumatoid Arthritis and causes chronic inflammation in the SI joints and the spine as well as lots of stiffness. It can also affect other parts of the body and cause some strange non-related symptoms. Symptoms often come on harsh in flare-ups and get worse with inactivity. If left untreated, the inflammation in the spine can lead to spinal fusion.
I was lucky enough to catch it in an early stage. While it still took more than six years to diagnose from the onset of the first symptom, I suffered minimal damage and have been keeping it at bay with a biologic drug called Enbrel. I give myself a shot once a week. While the drugs have helped drastically, I feel that my active lifestyle — and in particular climbing — has really been the most important part of keeping my symptoms in check. Climbing and the movement has become part of my therapy. I really can’t see life without it. It not only helps keep my spine healthy, but is a celebration of something that I have come to think of not as a given, but as a gift: mobility.
Though I still have flare-ups and struggling with bouts of pain, I have a greater appreciation for how lucky I am that I can still climb and still push my limits. I sometimes have to balance my want to climb as much and as hard as I can with what my body can handle during bad times, but I am still able to do what I love, which is more than some people with this disease can say. I hope others with AS will see how climbing has changed my life for the better and strive to find a therapy in movement that I have come to find through climbing.
I had a great time doing the video with Joe and Colette. They’re amazing people. Beyond their love of rock climbing, psych and motivation they are both talented behind the lens. As a duo they work seamlessly, making it look like they’re not even trying. They share a very unique perspective, and through the lens that comes across. The videos they have been creating get better with each one. I find them to be very impressive and inspiring. Congrats to them on a job well done! Thanks Joe and Colette for making it happen, and thanks to Sterling Rope for standing behind me!
So, here’s the video. Would love feedback and please share with other!