AS is a type of inflammatory arthritis with the main symptoms being back pain, joint stiffness and fatigue. It’s a painful, progressive form of inflammatory arthritis which mainly affects the spine but can also affect other joints, tendons and ligaments. My symptoms include all of these but can vary day to day. I also have damage to my sacroiliac joint at the base of my spine which causes pain in my hips.
Before I was diagnosed I did not have a great understanding of chronic conditions and how they can negatively affect almost every aspect of someone's life. Since then, I've come a long way in understanding these conditions and now appreciate the need for spreading awareness about them.
In September 2020 I became a first time Dad to my beautiful daughter, Dorothy. Her arrival has made me think differently about my diagnosis and my future as a father. For a long time my diagnosis was something I found easier to ignore and my mental health took a hit. I've come to realise that life is precious and I want to be the best father and husband I can be and have decided to stop hiding from my condition and to tackle it head on.
So for the whole 2021 I am going set myself my biggest physical challenge yet. I am taking part in the Virtual Conqueror Challenge (link below). The Virtual Conqueror Challenge is a virtual physical event where you can sign up to one of 18 different distance challenges. Each challenge equates to the same distance of a famous trail or area of the world, for example the English Channel (21 miles). During each challenge you can receive virtual postcards of places you've 'visited' and a medal after completion. I am going to sign up to the first 10 challenges and give myself the year to complete them all separately. The 10 challenges I will be completing are:
1 - English Channel, 21 miles
2 - Inca Trail, 26 miles
3 - Mount Everest, 40 miles
4 - Mount Fuji, 46 miles
5 - Giza Pyramids, 46 miles
6 - Hadrian's Wall, 90 miles
7 - Ring of Kerry - 124 miles
8 - Great Ocean Road - 149 miles
9 - Alps to Ocean (New Zealand) - 180 miles
10 - Cabot Trail, 185 miles
These 10 challenges add up to a grand total of 907 miles. I will be completing these by walking, running and swimming and logging through my smart watch on the conqueror app. I will be doing this all while dealing with my condition, my daily symptoms and frequent painful flare ups.
The cost of these challenges is £240. I hope to raise as much money as possible beyond this and will donate all profits to National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society (NASS, link below) so they can continue their incredible work helping people who are battling AS in the UK.
I will be documenting my story on Instagram, follow me @chronic_conqueror to see how I get on!
- James Shipsmith
- Grant Coleman
- Kate Tombs
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