Case study: Daniel Lawton
Diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis
Simple tasks that became impossible because of rheumatic conditions:
Daniel was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) in his mid-20s, but spent many years in denial over his condition. At a younger age he had the potential of becoming a professional cricket player, but with the onset of his condition he found himself unable to pursue this ambition any more as well as having to stop working and finding it difficult to look after his young son.
Danel’s story: bowled out
Daniel first noticed the early symptoms of his condition when he began driving lessons and noticed stiffness in his neck. Daniel went to see his doctor who quickly suspected that he had arthritis, much to Daniel’s surprise. “I said I couldn't possibly have that - only old people get that. He then said some strange words which I didn't understand. After my x-ray he told me I had this ankylosing spondylitis which I couldn't even say at the time.”
Daniel considers himself lucky with regards to the speed of the diagnosis. “I was lucky overall as my GP had just come off an awareness course for AS and spotted it straight away. I was diagnosed within 3 months.” Daniel worked as a stage manager, and attempted to keep doing so until eventually he had to give this role up. He also had to have both of his hips replaced early in his 30s.
Living with a rheumatic disease: following on
Daniel initially struggled with accepting his condition, and still does to this day. “I was in denial for a long time and just decided there was nothing wrong with me. Then I’d catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window and ask myself is that really me? Over the years I have accepted it more but I have never been able to completely accept it.”
Daniel’s life changed significantly since his diagnosis, and he found himself not only unable to fulfil his potential of becoming a professional cricket player, but also struggling with simpler tasks. “Then there’s the smaller things that we tend to take for granted – I can’t pick things up off the floor and I have to ask people on the street to pick it up for me. So often they look at me thinking ‘there’s nothing wrong with you, why do you need my help.’”
Daniel also struggled to look after his young son due to his condition. “When my son was small I looked after him while my wife was in work and found it very difficult when he started to crawl – I was supposed to be responsible for him but I couldn't keep up with him.”
Daniel’s window of opportunity: reverse swing
Daniel has come to terms with his condition as he has grown older, and is now much more accepting of his limitations. “I’ve become more patient over the years but maybe that comes with age. I used to get the ‘why me’ syndrome and now have more acceptance of my condition. I used to avoid telling anyone what was wrong with me but now I tell them as soon as I meet them to stop them second guessing and judging me.”
Photography has also helped Daniel deal with his condition. “I have been doing photography since the spinal surgery as I wasn’t able to before due to my posture. It has quite literally changed my view on life. You see things in a different way emotionally but now physically as well – for years all I could see were my feet!”
Daniel also found solace in the care that he received, and meeting other sufferers of his condition. “I’ve been going to the residential course at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) in Bath since the late 1980s. I’ve met a lot of people here as well as through the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society and Facebook. The RNHRD has also provided me with the best possible care I could ever want.”
Daniel is sharing his story to help raise awareness of rheumatic conditions because he wants to share his experiences with other people in the same boat.
The window of opportunity is key in finding the right treatment for millions of people with rheumatic conditions.
If you are inspired by Daniel’s story, visit the "Take Action" section to learn about your window of opportunity to help.