AS Warriors

Why They Call Us Warriors


When I first heard the word “warrior” associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis, I didn’t even blink. It seemed appropriate. It was accurate.

We with AS are forced to fight.

Long before I ever heard the words “Ankylosing Spondylitis”, decades before I was diagnosed, like all of us I was under attack from an unknown enemy. My entire body/mind/spirit was under attack. And I called myself “warrior” way back then. That’s how I naturally referred to myself, while I tried anything and everything to coach and motivate myself, moment to moment throughout the day.

“C’mon, young warrior, get up!”, I’d say. I’d beg and plead with myself: “C’mon, young warrior, you have to be tougher than this! Please show me you’re tougher than this!”

We fight to get out of bed.   We fight to change positions while we sleep. We fight to get up out of a chair. We fight to stay out of a chair, to stay off crutches and canes… We fight through fatigue, we fight off infection. We fight through physical pain, we fight to move our frozen bodies. We fight shame embarrassment humiliation, we fight our own pride. We fight with grace: we fight in silence so you never have to hear us complain.

We’re not allowed to stop fighting. We’re not allowed to give up. That only leads to more pain and even paralysis. If we don’t fight to move, we’ll stay stuck there suffering, tortured and frozen.

We’re forced to learn about ourselves, to look inside ourselves, to find out and face what’s in there… We’re forced to find alternative remedies, forced to come up with our own… We’re forced to become our own doctor, our own therapist. We’re forced to stretch even with the slightest movement…

And if by chance we meet a fellow warrior, even from all the way across the world, we pass notes to each other, to help us defeat our common enemy.

We become wise at an early age, as we experience a lifetime of pain in what seems like an instant. We learn from our battles, we learn empathy for all creatures on Earth, as we recognize and relate to all struggle and suffering.

There is never a day without battle.

Even on our very best day, we overcame adversity. And as we overcome every obstacle, we grow stronger and stronger…   We learn that we’re not fragile, that we can endure much more than anybody ever thought. We become better people, and grow grateful for our journeys. We learn to appreciate and celebrate every small victory in our personal war.

We rest in between battles, knowing there will be struggle through conflict soon, we rest with confidence and without complaint, as we’re constantly prepared to fight.

That’s why they call us warriors.

Just so you know.


Ryan Haynes is the author of the novel “Unfortunately Human”, available on Amazon.  His new novel “Healer” will be out in November 2016.  He lives and writes in Los Angeles.

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