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Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis - Gaya Selvam

“Live life to the fullest everyday.”

Gaya Selvam

Hello! I’m Gaya and I work full time in the healthcare sector and own an online business as a side hustle and I love travelling! About 3 years ago, I started to feel pain in my joints and all over my body but Panadol and painkillers did not help. I went to the A&E and they gave me more painkillers but there was no solution for the pain. I saw multiple doctors and no one could give me a diagnosis. It was a year later that my podiatrist suspected that it was more than planter fasciitis and sent me for blood tests which came back with high inflammatory markers and I got referred to a rheumatologist who later diagnosed me with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of inflammatory arthritis and is a long-term condition. There's no cure for AS and it's not possible to reverse the damage caused by the condition. However, treatment is available to relieve the symptoms and help prevent or delay its progression.

I was first put on prednisolone and acroxia but because I am plus size, it wasn’t a long-term solution. Unfortunately, DMARDS (Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) alone doesn’t work for AS, so I was put on and still am on Golimumab, a type of biologics drug that is given via injections and sulfasalazine. The side effects are fatigue and some bruising on the day of injection. The other major challenge I face is the cost of the biologics. Monthly injections costs $1,150 and no government subsidy is available for biologics unless you have failed cheaper alternatives. As I failed the cheaper alternatives, I was given 50% Medifund subsidy making my monthly cost $575. This does not include the cost of consultation and other medications. It has definitely affected my work but I’m grateful and thankful to my understanding boss who has been a great support through my AS Journey. I’ve learned to navigate this disease by treating everyday as a new day and to be grateful and happy when I wake up pain-free. I enjoy pain-free days to the fullest because they are so, so precious to me. I’m also thankful to my mother, friends and colleagues who have understood and supported me through this journey. It is important that everyone knows that this disease exists and it is very real. I hope that my disease goes into remission one day (fingers crossed) and that biologic drugs can be subsidised.

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