Hollywood Insider Reveals Her Big Secret: Arthritis
Hollywood is a land of secrets, often only exposed in the latest tabloid magazines lining grocery store checkout lines.
But after 20 years, Hollywood insider Christine Schwab has decided to voluntarily reveal some truths in her new book, “Take Me Home from the Oscars” (Skyhorse, $25).
As a fashion and beauty correspondent, Schwab worked on popular TV shows such as “Oprah,” “The Today Show” and “Entertainment Tonight.” Her life has long revolved around glitz and glamour, with homes in Los Angeles and the Newport Coast.
So when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1990, at age 43, she feared the Hollywood lights would fade.
“I made the decision to keep it a secret from everyone except my immediate family, because I knew that it would ruin my career,” said Schwab, 64. “Because the perception of arthritis was really old and crippled, it didn’t work with what I did.
Take Me Home From The Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion, And Me
Christine Schwab has lived a life of Hollywood and New York glamour most people can only dream about. For 20 years she appeared as a fashion and beauty reporter on the nations leading television shows including, Live with Regis & Kelly, Oprah!, The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight and NBC Nightly News. She dined with celebrities, met US Presidents, attended numerous Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes, published two books and was featured in and wrote for many of the most popular magazines while living a thrilling personal and public life married to a powerful Hollywood executive. But for most of those years, she was hiding a devastating illness that threatened to take over her entire life.
In Take Me Home From the Oscars, Schwab tells for the first time her story of living an amazing life in television while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Schwab recounts with incredible honesty how on the same day she produced and appeared in a major makeover segment for Live with Regis & Kelly in New York and then raced to Chicago to appear on Oprah!, all while balancing medications to ward off the relentless pain that plagued her on-camera and off. She shares an enchanted evening at the Oscars and the unpredictable arthritis pain that cut it heartbreakingly short. She re-lives being driven to deceive herself and others in a career that demands timeless beauty and youth.
Rarely am I ever reluctant to discuss any topic related to rheumatoid arthritis here on my blog, but today’s post is the exception. It’s not that I am ashamed of what I am going to write about, it’s just that even though the words that I write here are often very personal in nature, I feel that decisions that I make on how/how not to medicate my illness are some of the most private issues in my life.
I have never hidden the fact that I believe in a complete, holistic approach to treating my rheumatoid arthritis, and that I have never limited myself to just taking pills. (See 00:00:10 remaining in my 60-Second Guide To RA.) That said, I believe that many of the medicines that I take to control my disease are both very helpful and very harmful to my body.
In only the past couple of years, I have shared stories of hair loss (I’m currently going into my third round), elevated liver enzymes (scary!), stomach problems (the superhero with “abs of tissue paper” was how I stated it so eloquently, I believe), and so on. I haven’t even talked much about my methrotrextate-year-from-hell (somehow my doctor at the time convinced me that having the worst headache for 48 hours after each dose and 24/7 diarrhea was a “normal” response to the medication), which took place before I even started this blog.
Even with all of these horrible side effects, though, I readily admit that many times these medicines have been the only things that have kept me moving. Shot upon shot upon shot, and pill after pill after pill, for months on end. There were periods where without these medicines, I would have been completely immobile from my jaw all the way down to my pinky toe.
But every now and then, my body reaches a point where I just know that the solution (temporarily, at least, as is often the case with talking about RA) is to not keep medicating myself as much. So I take a vacation from my pills. Now, I know this goes against all of the scientific information that we receive, but ultimately, for me at least, my decision to take these breaks comes from one thought: I, and only I, really know what’s going on with my body. I am the only person who knows what is helping and what is not helping. And in order to really feel well, I have to tap into these feelings and act with confidence.
And the results, normally (this is not the first time this has happened) are usually quite startling. I show a major improvement that lasts for anywhere from a couple of months to a little less than a year. Am I in remission, some might ask? I don’t think so, as symptoms of my illness continue to be present each and every day. Sometimes they’re not even less severe; I just seem to accept them, live with them, and incorporate them into my life much more easily.
So as a disclaimer, I want to clearly state that I am not advising anyone else on how he or she should or should not use medicines. (I often receive emails and comments asking about certain medicines, and when I respond I clearly state that each person reacts differently to each medicine that is out there. Yes, methrotrexate a few years back did more harm than good to my body, but I know many, many people who have responded well to it.)
My previous rheumatologist did not support my decision to stop taking my medicines for certain periods of time, which is one of (many) reasons why we no longer have a doctor-patient relationship. My current rheumatologist was originally reluctant when I raised the topic about a month and a half ago (right about the time I started tapering off ALL my meds), but in the end he recommended that if I make such a decision, that I incorporate other activities such as aquatic exercise into my treatment plan.
Ultimately, the decision on how and how not to medicate my illness is one that only I can make, with the advice and support of numerous health professionals who are in my life. I know that my current plan of not medicating will not last forever, but at this moment, this is what is working for me.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!
The Arthritis Walk® is the Arthritis Foundation’s annual nationwide event that raises awareness and funds to fight arthritis, the nation’s most common cause of disability. It is a tremendous opportunity to help improve the lives of the 50 million men, women and children doctor-diagnosed with arthritis. This year, get your company involved or recruit friends and family members to form a team and join Let’s Move Together, a nationwide movement led by the Arthritis Foundation that encourages people to move to prevent or treat arthritis. By joining the movement you also make the commitment to participate in your local 2011 Arthritis Walk.
The Arthritis Foundation is the only national not-for-profit organization that supports the more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. Founded in 1948, with headquarters in Atlanta, the Arthritis Foundation has multiple service points located throughout the country. The Arthritis Foundation is the largest private, not-for-profit contributor to arthritis research in the world, funding more than $380 million in research grants since 1948. The foundation helps people take control of arthritis by providing public health education; pursuing public policy and legislation; and conducting evidence-based programs to improve the quality of life for those living with arthritis.
In honor of my fellow superhero Aquaman, I’ve started swimming each day as part of my fitness routine.
And even though I know I’ve only just started, it already feels great. It feels wonderful to be moving in the mornings, to be swimming in a pool full of heated water where a lot of my constant joint pain seems to instantly disappear as soon as I am floating in the water.
My rheumatologist has been recommending for more than a year that I start swimming, but with my previously busy schedule I could never seem to find the time. As the cold weather of winter approaches with each new day, I figured that now was the time. (I’m determined not to stop moving this winter.) My only regret is having waited so long to start.
Does anyone else swim or do aquatic exercises on a regular basis?
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!
Who are we? I am Anna, a single mom with ADD and major depressive disorder, raising two kids in Texas. My son, Marty, has juvenile arthritis and ADHD. My daughter, Bella, is a healthy girl with a beautiful spirit and a gigantic heart.
Why are we here? I want to share our adventures (otherwise known as challenges) so maybe someone else will recognize themselves in our lives. Hopefully we can help each other cope with the daily struggles. If not, maybe something I say will help you become just a little more understanding of the trials and tribulations of a single mom with mental issues raising a child with a chronic illness.
Oh, and our names have been changed, so if you think you know me, please don’t rat me out.