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