Steve's Blog: Stiff necked reporter can't complain

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - I'm going to point the camera at myself for this week's blog.

I've written before about how much our viewers seem to enjoy personal information about the people they seen on their TV news. I'll have someone ask me about hair styles and weight losses and other personal tid bits about "on air" reporters and anchors.

It was certainly different during my 12 years in radio news. Every now and then, someone might recognize the "voice" they'd heard on the radio. But not that often.  However, on TV there's no hiding and very little anonymity.

For the most part, I very much enjoy people recognizing me as "the news guy."  Even when I've been mistaken for anyone from Mike Reader to Brad Kessie to Dave Vincent.

Besides people asking me about "the news" there's another question I get all the time:  Did you hurt your neck?

I'm sure most viewers, certainly longtime viewers, have noticed that I have a very stiff neck with very limited motion.

Allow me to explain why.

I have a form of arthritis called "ankylosing spondylitis."  Mine happens to be concentrated in the neck, though it can affect the entire back.  In fact, anklyosing spondylitis is essentially "arthritis of the spine."

My particular medical condition dates back many years ago to when I was around 18-years-old.  At that time, I was stricken with a severe bout of arthritis that affected virtually every joint in my body.  It hurt beyond description. I saw a series of doctors and specialists before getting the positive diagnosis of a certain kind of arthritis that strikes primarily young men. It was confirmed in a blood test.

Thanks to the proper prescription medications, my arthritis was controlled and essentially went into a kind of remission.  However, there is no cure, so it's something I'll always have.

I've taken a variety of arthritis medications ever since that time. My doctors have changed my prescriptions as drug research has advanced.

The neck pain became more prevalent following a trip to Disney World in the early 1980s.  I twisted my neck pretty badly riding the Space Mountain roller coaster. I thought it would go away, but the problem seemed to worsen.

That roller coaster ride may have simply been the trigger point for the ankylosing spondylitis, I don't know.

I do know that I've experienced chronic pain in my neck ever since.

But I've learned there are basically two responses to this.  I could lay around and complain and moan about it, or I could go on about the business of living my life: doing the news, kayaking the river and enjoying taking photographs in beautiful South Mississippi.

I chose to not let the problem limit me. Sure, it's a challenge at times. But who doesn't have problems, whether physical or otherwise?

I have certainly developed an empathy for people who face physical pain and disabilities in their own lives.  It can be depressing, but generally only if you let it.

So, there you have it.  My neck doesn't move much, but at least it does still move.

I take four different drugs for my arthritis and the resulting pain; three in pill form and one I inject once a week.

Add two more drugs for high cholesterol and blood pressure and my medicine cabinet doesn't have much more space.

Still, I count my blessings.  It may not sound like it, but overall I'm a pretty healthy 50-year-old. I exercise walk every day, kayak often, play tennis on occasion and just enjoy life the best way I can.

So, if you see me in public, you already know the answer to: Did you hurt your neck?

Now, if you want to discuss arthritis drugs or treatment, I can tell you plenty!

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.