Jessica is a writer, artist, wife, academic, dog-mom, and outdoor enthusiast who is learning more each and every day about life with a chronic illness. After nearly a decade spent in graduate school studying writing and literature, she is now a university administrator who spends her free time hiking and writing about her illness.
Though officially diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2016, Jessica has been living with lower back pain and other AS symptoms since the early 2000s. In total, she spent a decade and a half searching for a name for her invisible illness, which is not an uncommon length of time for women to wait for an AS diagnosis. Her AS is now fairly well managed with a biologic, a DMARD, NSAIDs, and consistent exercise.
In 2019, Jessica began her blog BackCountry Chronic
to talk about daily challenges with her disease and how AS has redefined what it means to be an ‘outdoor enthusiast’ for her. Though Jessica may not be able to summit a mountain or set out on a long backpacking adventure, she still gets out into the wilderness to hike as often as possible, knowing that plans may change in an instant because of chronic pain and fatigue. Jessica shares photos of her outdoor adventures with AS on her Instagram: @backcountry_chronic.
Jessica, originally from Massachusetts, now resides in New Mexico with her wife and two dogs. She holds a BA from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Her artwork is featured on New Mexico Wilderness Alliance’s 2020 Mexican Wolf Conservation Stamp. She has also shared her AS story, in the form of a video diary, with Healthline.
Life with AS is unpredictable, at best, though Jessica believes that a key way to cope with life with a chronic illness is to find a community to share experiences, to connect with, and to learn from. Jessica hopes to raise awareness about Axial Spondyloarthritis and help build community through her stories and contributions.
Click here to read all of Jessica’s articles on AxialSpondyloarthritis.net.
Click here to read all of Jessica's articles on AnkylosingSpondylitis.net.