“There’s No Stopping Me Now!”

Tom “EZ” Goen cruises the nation sharing his tips on being happy with psoriasis.

Dyersville, IA, is home to the baseball diamond in the movie Field of Dreams. For Tom, the field represents his new dreams. Once the owner of a bar and grill, he was a happily married guy with two daughters.

That all changed in 2006. It started with the appearance of a few small red bumps on his foot that became severe plaque psoriasis and then psoriatic arthritis. At the same time, his personal life was changing—Tom went through a divorce and sold his business. 

Yet he never lost hope. Instead, he turned to his family and found a team of doctors who “got me the medication I needed,” says Tom, 49. “Now I’m about as happy as I’ve been in a long time.”

And who could blame him? Last summer, he set off from the Field of Dreams location on a modified Harley-Davidson motorcycle. His goal? To cover 14,600 miles across 48 states, all to raise awareness about psoriasis and help others “emotionally triumph over affliction.” And one year later, he’s still trekking. “This has exhilarated me,” says Tom. Here, the secrets that keep him revved!

Reimagine yourself

Maybe Tom couldn’t stand behind a bar for hours anymore, but he could ride a Harley. Plus, psoriasis couldn’t steal his love of travel or gift of gab. So he married his skills and passions in a new vocation—helping people living with chronic pain find medical assistance. He’s named his mission PURPAL: People United Relieving Painful American Lives.

Pay this forward

It’s help! “It’s a calling for me to make people happy,” says Tom. But he acknowledges he first had to let others give him a hand. “Three things got me here: My mom rescued me, the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics treated me and I met the National Psoriasis Foundation.” Now it’s his turn. “I educate at least one person a day about psoriatic arthritis. I comfort people in pain,” Tom says.

Hold on to hope

At one point, psoriasis covered 75% of Tom’s body. “My feet grew so big; the psoriasis was an inch around. I couldn’t go into work.” But he stuck with his rheumatologist and dermatologist until he found the biologic drug he takes each week by self-injection. The drug blocks TNF-alpha (a substance that causes inflammation), helping to reduce soreness, redness and other symptoms. Today, Tom says he feels better, has less flaking and the psoriasis is at about 50%.

Stay the course

One important lesson that Tom learned on the road: Don’t quit your treatment. At one point, he was so concerned about the cost and inconvenience of having to keep his medications in a cooler while on the road that he stopped taking them. Within a few months, he regretted it. “My arthritis started acting up,” says Tom. After starting treatment again, Tom’s noticed a big change in his quality of life. “I took a shot at noon. At 5 PM, my back and everything else felt better. Now I sleep every night comfortably.”

Have a story to share?
We’d love to hear your story! Email us your advice for coping with psoriasis at: Guides@healthmonitor.com

Published August 2011

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