Pat Corbin has always lived and promoted an active lifestyle. The 71-year-old from New Hampshire dedicated his life to sports education and retired almost 10 years ago from his role as the executive director of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, where he oversaw high school sports for the region.
He maintained a long career as a youth sports promoter and educator (while keeping up with his four grandchildren), despite living with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) for more than 35 years.
His secret? Support from two very special, very advanced medical professionals.
Before his PsA diagnosis in the early 1980s, Corbin was no stranger to disease. At an early age and through high school, he wrestled with severe eczema. Then in the mid-1970s, Corbin learned that he had psoriasis.
He is not sure if his eczema was a misdiagnosis or not, but in his mind, it didn’t matter much because at that time, the treatments for each disease were the same: tar baths and phototherapy.
A Good Guy Steps In
“In the early ’80s, I started having trouble with the joints in my feet,” says Corbin. “I was fortunate enough to come across a rheumatologist who was convinced I was developing psoriatic arthritis. He was ahead of his time in prescribing medical treatments that were just starting to show up.”
Corbin doesn’t recall the doctor’s first name (and isn’t too sure about his last name). He always refers to the unique rheumatologist as his “good guy.”
His good guy would talk about the risks associated with some of the new medications arriving at the time, but the doctor was convinced that it was worth the possible side effects to treat the arthritis as early as possible to stave off permanent and irreversible damage.
“I had relatives who had rheumatoid arthritis and, back then, the protocol was to treat the symptoms,” says Corbin. “And by the time research would catch up to treat the arthritis, their joints would be all gone.” He says that his good guy’s aggressive attitude, along with being able to spot PsA so early, was not common practice among the specialists he had seen up to that point.
“I still have psoriatic arthritis in my hands and some in my left foot, but besides some minor pain, I don’t have the serious health restrictions that many people do have. And I account that to his proactive approach.”
However, when Corbin’s good guy retired in the late ’80s, his PsA started to creep back in as the treatment became less effective. He saw a series of specialists, and while he remarks that they were all very talented, they couldn’t replicate his previous treatment success.
Paging Dr. Gottlieb
It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Corbin started to receive the same advice from multiple medical professionals. “The last five rheumatologists all told me the same thing, ‘You need to go to Boston. And you need to see Dr. Gottlieb at Tufts Medical Center.’ ”
Alice Gottlieb, M.D., Ph.D., came so highly recommended because she was a dermatologist, a rheumatologist and an internal medicine doctor. She was the perfect specialist to deal with Corbin’s psoriasis and PsA not as two separate diseases, but both as a whole.
And while Corbin had to go through yet another roulette wheel of biologics and treatments, Gottlieb (now an NPF medical board member) helped clear his psoriasis, which had covered close to 90 percent of his body, and restored his mobility. Today he says his psoriasis is visible only in a couple of tiny patches, and his PsA hardly bothers him. “Dr. Gottlieb is the full package. I am thankful for being able to cross paths with her in my treatment.”
The success of Corbin’s treatment has allowed him to keep his active lifestyle into his 70s. “I still play tennis, golf, go to the gym every day, and I really believe I wouldn’t be able to do these things if I hadn’t run into the right doctors at the right time.”