Hi, Jen...My husband suffers with AS. You have SO many questions that will need to be answered..I don't even know where to start. Death is the least of your problems, my dear. Your daily battles will be with pain management. And with the use of TNF inhibitors, fusing is less common than it used to be...but there are side effects, as there are with many of the drugs that your doctors will want to prescribe.
Make sure your rheumy has your medical history..and don't be afraid to ask questions. You'll need a GOOD rheumy...one that is familiar with AS.
You have a fight ahead of you. I am part of a support group on Facebook..suffers & support for suffers alike. They've been wonderful.