In “Take Me Home from the Oscars,” TV makeover expert and fashion consultant Christine Schwab was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in her early 40s. Because of the line of work she was in, she learned to hide the debilitating pain she was in. Before her diagnosis, she lied to everyone in her life, including her husband, the former Universal Studios president of television distribution, about how much she was dealing with and how much of struggle her health was. After her diagnosis, her husband was her number 1 support. The two of them even left the Academy Awards in 1995 due to Christine’s RA symptoms and pain.
She hid her pain for many reasons but mostly due to a childhood where she was taught to appear flawless regardless of what she was going through. Growing up, she was told that she always had to be “neat and clean,” and she took this with her in a career. Had RA not come into her life, there wouldn’t be an issue. She writes, “But when disease struck, arthritis marched over everything, not caring what it destroyed.” After years of trying to find a treatment plan, her dedication finally pays off when she finds a treatment plan that allows her to focus on her career.
The number of people with rheumatoid arthritis is about 1.5 million and about 46 million people have some form of arthritis. For the most part, it is celebrities that feel the need to hide such an ailment because of the stigma associated with the disease.
For Christine, this book is her way of saying, “I am not hiding anymore.” It takes her nearly twenty years to get to this point but she is courageous enough to admit that RA has had its effects on her. I think it is important to note Christine’s journey isn’t just about living with RA; it is also about the stigma that we associate with the disease – the idea that RA causes disfigurement and disability. Further, living with chronic illness in this day and age means that we appear normal even though we don’t feel normal. It takes an emotional toll on person in order to cover up a disease and to survive out there in the real world. Anyone with lupus, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, or any other invisible illness can attest to this.
I can personally relate. While some of my coworkers know I have RA and fibromyalgia, I have never allowed it to be a weakness and I would never tell my employer. Believe me, there have been days where I can’t even take the steps to the second floor of my office building and I get weird looks for taking the elevator one floor. It has taken me a long time but I am starting to come to terms with RA and fibro in my life. It hasn’t been easy and it definitely isn’t something that happened overnight. I hope that is something that I can someday have the courage not to hide as I focus on my career. I don’t hide it because I am embarrassed. I hide it because I don’t want special treatment nor do I want to be looked at as incapable. That is probably similar to what Christine went through.
“Take Me Home from the Oscars” is Christine’s personal story about courage in a society that doesn’t accept those who are sick in a healthy world. Christine makes a choice to stand up and speak up for the many who struggle from the very same disease that has wrecked havoc on her life.