Gonzalo Mozas, patient with severe atopic dermatitis: "My friends went out at night, I applied cream and took medication"

Gonzalo Mozas, patient with severe atopic dermatitis: “My friends went out at night, I applied cream and took medication”

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In Spain around two million people suffer from atopic dermatitis, a skin disease that causes redness, swelling and itching. However, among them, about 50 thousand suffer severe atopic dermatitis (DAG), a much more severe condition that can become very limiting, especially in summer, when, in addition to a worsening of symptoms, the insecurities of some patients who see how their self-esteem suffers are added. To raise awareness about HGD, Sanofi and AADA, the Association of People Affected by Atopic Dermatitis, have launched the Stories with Light project for the second consecutive year, a space in which, in addition to raising awareness about the disease, we can learn about the history of overcoming patients like Gonzalo Mozas, a young man of 18 years, a fan of cinema and philosophy, with whom we spoke while doing the Camino de Santiago.

Your life is marked by DAG, because you have always suffered from it. How has it affected you, what things have you not been able to do because of the disease?It has affected me a lot, because since I was a child I noticed that I had to do things that other children did not have to do, like running to shower after getting out of the pool and smearing myself with cream, I could not do some extracurricular activities, I had to give up football American because I couldn’t put on the kit, I got a lot of wounds from sweat… For me it was a very normal thing, but when I started to grow up, especially as a result of adolescence, I realized that this was not normal, that I was the only one of my friends who did it, who had many limitations… and that has had a lot of influence when it comes to relating to other people, because people already looked at me, they were surprised that I was itchy so much, that I had marks on my arms…

When you were little you told your classmates that you had injuries because you had been in the war…Yes, I had to use other tools to relate to others, and I told my colleagues that the wounds and scratches on my arms were because I had been in a war, so they would think I was a tough guy, and not that I was devastated… Then, later, when I was 13 or 14 years old, it was harder, because people run away from you, they don’t understand what’s happening to you, and that affects you more. Because a lot of people have dermatitis, but severe atopic dermatitis is something else.

They say that adolescence is one of the worst times because patients have less adherence to treatment. Was it your case?Well, in my case it was just the opposite, it was reaching adolescence and taking the treatments, the routines even more seriously… I have been very little ‘involved’, but the dermatitis did not let me do it. I was always very aware that I couldn’t be as free as people my age, because if I left the treatment I was much worse, I couldn’t afford it. Thus, while my friends in the camp went out there at night, I had to dedicate myself to applying cream, taking my medication and trying to rest more because otherwise it would get worse.

“As a child, I told my classmates that the wounds on my arms were because I had been in a war, so that they would believe that I was a tough guy, and not that I was broken”

And now, how are you doing?Well now I’m pretty good. On the one hand, because I have quite controlled the disease and I can almost lead a normal life. After years of trying different medications, I am on a medication that is helping me a lot. On the other hand, because I have found my place in AADA, the Association of People Affected by Atopic Dermatitis, they have helped me psychologically to understand what is happening to me, I feel that I belong to a group, I feel heard…

How are you spending the summer? Heat makes the disease much worse…Yes, summer is the worst time, especially because of the chlorine in swimming pools and the heat, which makes you sweat more, and sweat causes a lot of itching, you sleep worse, which is very bad for the skin… In the most complicated time I had, which was adolescence, I directly locked myself up in the summer, but over the years I have been developing ‘tricks’ and I am getting along better, like going north whenever I can, to the beach, sunbathing -in moderation and protection- because dermatitis is good…

It seems that you found the light at the end of the tunnel thanks to cinema and philosophy… What do they mean now in your life, how do they help you?Well, they mean a lot to me, because, in fact, I’m going to start studying at film school… And I owe this, in quotes, to dermatitis, because during the time when I locked myself up a little more because of dermatitis or that I had to stay in bed, I spent a lot of time watching movies and reading books. Since I was 12 years old I went to the cinema every week alone, on the one hand, because the cinema is a dark place in which nobody saw my skin; and on the other, because I like it so much and I concentrated so much on the movies that during that time I didn’t scratch it. When I started to make movies myself, to record things, to shoot… it was the same feeling, I concentrated so much that I forgot that I was itching. And philosophy has taught me a lot of things, among them, to accept myself… Severe atopic dermatitis is a bitch, very hard at times, but after all it has made me who I am. Dermatitis, philosophy and cinema have made me who I am…

“Severe atopic dermatitis is a bitch, very hard at times, but after all it has made me who I am”

How important is the environment to cope with the disease, outbreaks…?A lot… is key in all diseases, because the environment is also affected and how the environment reacts or what the environment does greatly influences how the patient is. I have been lucky that my mother is a doctor, but even so, she has been trained a lot in the disease, she has learned with me… And with my brothers the same, because they have directly experienced the disease with me, they have contributed a lot, they have given me creams always…and they have made me many jokes, that to cope with it, a sense of humor is essential.

What would you say to a boy or girl your age who is not doing very well?Well, above all, that as far as possible, they do not put limitations on themselves, that they do not put more barriers than those that the disease already puts on us. I, for example, am doing the Camino de Santiago, and I have to carry a whole backpack with creams and medicines, I have to spend a lot of time taking care of myself… but I do it. Maybe it costs a little more to enjoy, but it is achieved, the worst in locking up and self-limiting. In the end, you develop a sense of duty to yourself and responsibility that makes you feel twice as proud of the things you manage to do.

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