Take Me Home From The Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion, And Me

Okay, I’ll admit it: I have a penchant for fashion. Maybe it’s because as a designer (architecture, graphic, and web), I have an appreciation for all things design related. Many people are familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece Fallingwater, but few people are familiar with the fact that he actually dabbled in clothing design. One of my favorite contemporary architects, Zaha Hadid, has a trademark style that can easily be (and has been) applied to buildings, dresses, or shoes alike. (If you’re not already familiar with her, take a quick look here!)

Maybe I like fashion because, at the age of 15, I was an exchange student living outside of Milan. At that time, I was most interested in seeing–with my own eyes–the art and architecture of Italy. I certainly could not ignore, however, the cultural emphasis that was placed on style and design in general, for all items ranging from kitchen utensils to blue jeans. (And when I actually needed new jeans during the end of my year-long stay, Levi’s were out of the question–my host family opted, instead, for Armani and Trussardi.)

So when I was asked to read a copy of Christine Schwab’s “Take Me Home from the Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion, and Me”, I, of course, welcomed the opportunity to do so. (Don’t worry: even if you don’ have a self-professed interest in fashion, that won’t make reading this book any less enjoyable!)

I must admit, I was much more emotionally moved by this book than I had anticipated, especially during the first few chapters in which Christine recounts the period of time when she knew something was wrong, but had not yet received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. I too went through an extended period (of almost two years) before I found out what was wrong with my body, why I was in so much pain and why my knees would just suddenly stop working. Many of the thoughts that are written in this book were thoughts that I myself experienced during this difficult time. Thoughts such as: “Deep down I was worried. This felt like something more than just being tired.” and “Something’s wrong with me,” I had to tell my family doctor a day earlier, “I think I picked up a little flu bug from the airplane travel. My body aches all over, hurts when I move, and I’m excessively tired.”

(I too remember those days when I assumed that I just had a really bad flu; funny thing is, this flu didn’t get any better with bed rest…it only got worse…a lot worse.)

I was also quite moved by Christine’s account of the challenges she faced while walking through the streets of New York City. While to some this may be just a minor detail, I have a very personal connection with NYC, having lived there while I was a student at Columbia University. On many occasions, I would just start walking–from 116th and Broadway–until I reached the southern tip of Manhattan…and then I’d take the subway back home. I loved seeing all of the people, all of the lights…but even more that this, I loved to look up as I walked block after block, and take in the sights of all of the tall buildings that surrounded me. (Don’ forget, I was studying architecture at the time.)

I was actually in New York City many years later, walking down Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to midtown, when my left knee gave out on me completely. (I had gone up to the Cloisters earlier in the morning, and had started struggling to walk around, more than ever before.) I knew something was wrong; what I didn’t know was that I was just a few weeks away from my official diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis., i.e. having my world turned upside down.

In this book, the author shares a lot of details about the makeover sessions that she styled for different television shows, during those early years when her RA continued to worsen. We learn about eager out-of-town couples who arrive in New York City, and who are kept apart until their ‘after’ looks are revealed to one another on live television. We don’t just read about the start and the finish of each makeover, however. We also read about all of the small details in between: hair cuts, shopping trips, dentists visits, etc.

By reading this book, readers are able to gain insight into Ms. Schwab’s personal struggles as the pain, disability, and fatigue of rheumatoid arthritis entered into her life (the ‘before’), and of her ability, through the use of will-power, positive attitude, and cutting-edge drugs, to control her disease and go into remission many years later (the ‘after’). And just like the makeovers mentioned above, we read not only about the start and the finish of her personal journey, but also about all of the critical details along the way.

And this is, without a doubt, the most meaningful ‘before’ and ‘after’ reveal that is presented in this book; the one makeover that doesn’t rely on clothes, makeup, and fashion…but that instead relies upon hope, determination, and strength. It’s definitely worth a read.


Take Me Home from the Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion, and Me
by Christine Schwab

“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.Schwab kept her career alive through determination, deception and hope. In Take Me Home From The Oscars, she takes us behind the scenes in Hollywood and New York, and behind her public persona to the 19-year journey through drug trials and treatment at the UCLA Medical Center. Readers will root for her at every step, and cheer when she ultimately finds remission and her new life’s work as a spokesperson for the National Arthritis Foundation. This is a book of hope for anyone dealing with adversity in their life.”

More Info: http://www.amazon.com/Take-Home-Oscars-Arthritis-Television…

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!


Real Profiles of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Photos © Rebecca






Brockville, Ontario, Canada

How long have you lived with RA?

Developed at around age 8 or 9. My first diagnosis was at age 9, second diagnosis following biopsy at 16… the doctor that gave me the first diagnosis lost his licence in an unrelated incident and so, when the swelling temporarily went down, the diagnosis was all but forgotten about and ignored for years.

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?

Firstly, be persistent! With my diagnostic struggles, countless times having difficulty in school because even teachers couldn’t understand my limitations, struggling to get doctors to take me seriously… I have learned that nobody understands your body, limitations, needs, and abilities better than you. You need to be persistent in this, whether a doctor saying, “I don’t feel the need to run more tests” when you know you still need more answers and need to make them realize this, or saying “no” when your phys ed teacher tries to get you to do physical activity you know will harm you. You are in the drivers seat with your medical life, and you need to take responsibility for it. Never back down if you feel your health depends on it, and don’t accept answers that contradict what you know has to do with your body, even if it’s a doctor!

Do you use any mobility aids?

I am usually able to hobble around well enough on my own, but if not, I’ve got my crutches, or my mom and boyfriend to lean on.

How has living with RA helped to improve your life?

I’ve learned to never take anything, especially your health, for granted, because nothing is a given in life, even if it should be. With RA, also, I have found that a lot of things seem easier to deal with, and therefore give me a lot less stress, just because they seem insignificant in comparison to the battle that is sometimes a simple daily task. It’s a blessing in disguise, really, this ability to not give a damn about issues and therefore tackle them easier because I have this, “RA is worse, I’m getting through. This…? I could get through this while sitting on the toilet!”

Do you have any visible signs of RA?

I have scars from a biopsy on my right knee, as well as stretch marks on it from a specific flareup I had a few years back. They’re finally starting to fade! My right foot points inwards naturally because of deformation of the right knee, and my toes and fingers are starting to show subtle deformities. I usually have inflammation in my knees, fingers, wrists, jaw, and sometimes other joints, and my finger and toe nails are yellowing from my methotrexate. My hair is starting to thin from slight hair loss from mtx, but the only people who notice are those that know me very well.

Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?

When my dog was still alive (she passed earlier this year), I would cuddle her. She could always sense when I was in pain, and would even lick the joints that were bothering me the most. It always comforted me. I always felt like she somehow understood. Now, I run an RA blog. It helps, knowing I’ve made many people more aware of my condition. The feeling that I have done something good gives me a lot of comfort. Other than that, I will sing as loud as I can (unless my jaw hurts too much), watch movies, hang out, vent to my boyfriend, whatever.

Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?

I have been given many steroid injections and oral steroids, but none worked. Now I inject methotrexate weekly, though I plan on coming off of it because it isn’t helping and the side effects are too overwhelming for me to cope with. I smoke medicinal cannabis to help with the pain and to help eat when my jaw is acting up, and I do yoga with my friend, Becky, to try and keep a little active.

Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?

RA is a disease that you need to take control with. I find doing things that benefit the cause helps. I, personally, blog (if you are interested, feel free to check out my RA blog www.arthritisy.tumblr.com or my RA-anecdotes blog www.those-ra-moments.tumblr.com) to help spread awareness for the disease and get my feelings about it out. I find it helps, and every time I see, “I never knew RA was like that! Thank you for informing me” or “I have started donating to an arthritis charity in my area after seeing your blog,” it makes me feel so warm and good inside!

A Disabled Writer’s Book Unfolds A Tap At A Time

By Nita Lelyveld, Los Angeles Times

“In the virtual world, Winkler roams free. He blogs. He comments. He write articles about film.

In the physical world, he increasingly is trapped — dependent on his sister and a long, red plastic chopstick.

Rheumatoid arthritis has battered him for 46 of his 55 years.

His neck won’t turn. His head is pitched down, chin to chest. His elbow and wrist joints are so fixed in place, he cannot touch his face.

Sitting up in bed, he can no longer extend his arms far enough to place his fingertips on the keyboard of the MacBook Pro propped on a lap desk across his thighs.

Instead, he braces the chopstick between several fingers on his right hand and uses it to tap, tap, tap one key after another.”

Read More: www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-adv-chopstick-book…