I’m Tema Smith, and in January of 2017, at the age of 33, after years of “injuries”, I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis with peripheral involvement, also known as axial spondyloarthritis (A.S. or axSpA). A.S. is an auto-inflammatory systemic arthritis that attacks the spine and sacroiliac joints, as well as fingers, toes, and whichever other joints it feels like on any given day. The disease causes inflammation in the enthesis, the connective tissue between bone and soft tissue, and an immune process triggered by that inflammation makes new bone grow, eventually leading to fusion of the joints and of the discs of the spine.
I was lucky that this disease was caught relatively early. While I do have some fusion in my sacroiliac joint (the joints that connect either side of my spine to my pelvis), my discs have not yet fused, though the process has begun.
As I processed this huge news, a thought kept coming back to me: I should write about it, if only just to write my way through it. Writing has always been therapeutic to me, and what better options did I have really to come to terms with having a chronic illness?
And so, the idea for Kiss My A.S. was born. The name of this site, as you can probably guess, is tongue-in-cheek. But it’s also purposefully polysemous — that is, it has multiple meanings. On the one hand, it’s triumphant — telling my A.S. where to go (I think you know exactly what I mean). On the other hand, it’s embracing — I have A.S., it’s not going anywhere, so I might as well make peace with it and give it a big giant kiss. Both of those things are everyday features of my own relationship to ankylosing spondylitis, so it only seemed appropriate to have a blog by that name.
Anyhow, that’s about it for me and my A.S. But of course, my A.S. is not the only thing that defines me. I’m a music lover, a dog owner, a community organizer, a cook… I’m a daughter and a sister… I’m a consummate urbanite… I’m a traveller… I’m an advocate and sometimes even an activist… I’m a student and I’m a teacher… I’m newly becoming a meditator… All of that is to say, I’m many things beyond this disease. I do have another website where I write more about the other parts of my life… You can find it here.
I’d love to get to know my readers, so please, leave me a comment and tell me a bit about yourself. What brings you here? And what do you hope to get out of reading this blog?
You can also use the comments section here to ask me anything. I can’t promise I will answer, but I can guarantee I’ll at least try.