I Traveled Without Pain (For Once), or How Climate Affects AS
Last updated: July 2022
This spring, I had the privilege of traveling (finally!) out of the country — to Sicily, where my grandmother was born in 1924. My friend and I had been planning this trip for over a year, tirelessly mapping out itineraries, pre-booking flights and train rides, and researching what we'd need to see or do to make it a fulfilling, ancestral trip. We visited Palermo, Agrigento, Cefalu, and Taormina. It was heaven.
In the back of my mind, before we left, I worried about what the trip would look like if I were to flare up. Everyone with AS knows the universal truth: No matter how much you try to prepare your body and your mind, this disease ultimately does what it wants. You can do everything "right" and things can still go wrong.
I made sure that I took great care of myself in the weeks ahead of my trip
I ate well, slept well, and walked daily — since walking helps me lubricate my joints and keep me from getting stiff and immobile. I also made sure to take care of my mental health, as stress management is such a huge part of my physical health for me. When my mind is clear and I stray from stressors, physiologically I feel a lot better.
I also took medication with me for the trip, and I wore heat patches on the plane rides and train rides. So, I very much had as much control as I could have.
Still, ankylosing spondylitis has been known to ruin trips for me before, especially after long plane rides. (Flashback to my birthday last year, in New Orleans, when I cried myself to sleep in pain).
An almost painless trip
So, when I landed in Sicily, it was as if some sort of magical force took over my body. I felt almost no pain for the duration of the entire trip. I could walk long distances with very little pain. I drank Italian wine and ate bread and pasta — and still, I had no flare ups.
Even with jet lag and sightseeing, I experienced almost no pain. I thought it was maybe due to my steadfast self-care. My mother joked that my ancestors were looking out for me — and maybe they were? — but I honestly think it had to do with the climate. Sicily is a Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry "Sirrocco" winds blowing over from Africa. Even though nights were chilly at times, maybe the dry warmth was good for my bones?
On our way back to the states, we flew through England to visit family. I only spent three days there, but I was in pain the entire time. As if some sort of divine joke, the moment the plane touched down in England, every joint in my body had seized up.
My sacrum and hips hurt so badly that I had to ditch our plans to walk through Windsor. I could barely make it through the castle tour. I was sofatigued I took myself to bed early, despite wanting to enjoy a bright English day. My English mother-in-law joked that it was the damp, cool English weather settling on my bones, but I don’t think she’s wrong.
I'm just grateful I got to have Sicily to myself, without AS intruding on my life's greatest trip.
How do you feel in different climates?
Have you ever had to take a leave of absence from work due to your symptoms?
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