'My aged mother in a wheelchair had to care for me'

A former national karate exponent, Fong was bedbound due to pain and only weighed 38kg by the time he was taken to see a rheumatologist and diagnosed with AS. — FONG CHEIN WAI

I was a national athlete, representing Malaysia in karate.

I competed both internationally and nationally, winning many medals, and was the pride of our country.

After retiring from sports in 1999, I worked as a bodyguard to the rich and famous, and ran a sports physiotherapy business.

The world was my oyster and life was good.

Then in 2004, I noticed that I had developed a persistent rash, and on visiting a dermatologist, was diagnosed with psoriasis.

As time went by, my health started to deteriorate, so much so that by 2005, I had to stop working.

I noticed my joints were getting painful and swollen, and I had difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.

I developed severe back pain, and soon could not carry out any daily activities.

I finally became bedbound in 2008.

The irony was that I had to be cared for by my aged mother, who was also wheelchair-bound due to her arthritis.

She had to feed me, clean me and take care of all my needs.

I did visit many doctors, but my condition continued to deteriorate.

I withdrew from society and stopped answering phone calls.

My brother finally wheeled me in to the rheumatology clinic in 2014.

I was in so much pain, unable to move and had lost a lot of weight – I weighed only 38kg.

The rheumatologist admitted me to the hospital and started investigations and treatment.

I was finally diagnosed as having ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

It took about 10 years from the beginning of my rash, back pain and joint pains to finally get my diagnosis.

With DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) and biologics, I have improved tremendously.

I am now able to take care of myself and walk short distances.

Although I still have limitation in mobility, I am finally able to travel around and socialise with my friends.

I do not have to rely on my aged mother to help me anymore.

I will need treatment for life.

Although the damage to my joints is irreversible, the medication helps prevent further damage.

My AS is in remission and I am happy.

I hope to continue to improve in health and be pain-free.

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Chronic diseases , joint disease , pain , back pain


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