John Wilkinson: No holding us back

I had my latest check up at Bath recently and Raj encouraged me to write something for the Project Nightingale blog. Challenge accepted!

I am John Wilkinson. I’m 56 and have been diagnosed with AS for 5 years or so. I probably had it long before that but didn’t know it. I have always been very active and have tried to maintain that as much as possible since the diagnosis. I have been very fortunate in that I have completed (about 18 months ago) the 2 week residential course in Bath that gave me tons of useful information and demystified the condition.

I have a pretty positive disposition. Heaven forbid, but if I were to lose my legs I would almost certainly take up some sort of wheelchair sport. If I were made redundant I would take up voluntary work whilst finding another job. That’s the way I deal with adversity. My AS diagnosis meant that I had to make some changes to my lifestyle – and these included giving up full-contact sports which I really enjoyed but at the same time It meant doing more of some other things which I really liked but couldn’t find the time for: I finally had an excuse to do hot yoga regularly.

The 2 week course also made me more aware of my own health and – because I know I have a condition restricting some of my activities – I am more healthy because of it because I take relatively good care of myself. This is certainly true in relation to my peers – the “average man in the street” if you like. I took up running, swimming and yoga in earnest. For example, I make a point of doing parkrun most weeks. If I cannot run, I walk it. If I am injured, I volunteer. It keeps me in a happy, positive community and I have made some really good friends along the way. This is in stark contrast to some of my “normal”, “healthy” peers who are actually much worse off than me because they take their health for granted and do no exercise.

My highlight of last year was completing my 50th parkrun with a friend and making the parkrun blog in the process:

My goal is not to run faster or longer – but to maintain my activity at reasonable levels for as long as possible. There are always new goals you can set yourself without punishing yourself. Just doing the same thing in a different environment has a “new” or “challenging” feel. So think outside the box and do something completely different (but still respecting your body). Perhaps a nighttime walk rather than a daytime walk or an outdoor swim rather than over indoor swim. All you need is imagination and a bit of planning and perhaps some support.

However it isn’t all good news. At my last check up my BASMI score had deteriorated a little and my range of motion has decreased. But being a positive person, I already have a plan to take more care over my body and try to get back to where I was. I refuse to give up. I don’t give up. I adapt. And I remain thankful and positive for the health that I still have!

Thanks for reading.

John Wilkinson