Johnny, I am newly diagnosed but my rheumetoligist says that based on my medical history, I have probably had this for a lot of years. I have been physically active all of my life and ironically enough have allways loved weight lifting, one of the activities that appears to affect this disease positively.
I have had a lot of joint pain for a long time but always attributed it to injuries incurred in years of power lifting and Judo but finally got to the point that I was having a hard time dealing with the pain so finally was diagnosed to make a long story short. Unfortunatly I had already incurred a lot of damage to my spine and hips so being diagnosed and treated early is a "good thing".
I have just started treatment this year, a combination of IV/IG infusions for my immune system and recently EMBREL so I am actually feeling pretty optimistic as I think anything has got to be an improvement. The point here is that I am 58 years old, and intend to work until normal retirement and probably beyond. I have talked to several people at thsi point who have made an amazing accomidation through a combination of exercise, diet and medication such as EMBREL. One man in his mid fourties, diagnosed for over 10 years told me that he is planning on doing the Canadian Iron Man this year (see Atheletes Against AS).
Even though I am "new" to this, my sense is that if you "pay attention" to the treatment and management of this disease and are diligent, you should not have to worry about being able to continue to live and support your family.