Christine Schwab

It started with aching feet. Something every woman occasionally gets, especially if she favors 3-inch heels – which fashion and style expert Christine Schwab did.

It was September 1990 and Christine, then a fashion reporter for Live with Regis and Kathy Lee, was in Manhattan prepping for a special feature: three real-women makeovers. She needed to get her throbbing feet out of her too-narrow Jimmy Choo heels, so the 43-year-old ducked into a store and bought a pair of sneakers. Better. But she still couldn’t walk very far. And she was oh-so-tired.

Thank goodness for her assistants, who helped pull the segment together. Little did Christine know she was in the midst of her own physical transformation.

She was – and still is – a beautiful blonde with Hollywood ties. In addition to her work on Regis, she also did special assignments for Entertainment Tonight on style and fashion – from the Oscars to where celebrities shop for the latest trends.

As the wife of Shelly Schwab, then the president of television distribution at Universal Studios, even her personal life revolved around the red carpet. She hobnobbed with celebrities and television and film executives at her husband’s business events, looking stunning, of course, in top designer clothes.

So when those nagging pains in the fall of 1990 led to a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, a few months later, Christine was shattered. As she reveals in her recently published memoir, Take Me Home From the Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion, and Me, 2011, Skyhorse Publishing Inc., she feared that if word got out, her career in an industry that valued youth and appearance would be over.

At First, Denial

Before Christine’s diagnosis, as the pain in her feet worsened, she was convinced she had tendinitis. But the orthopaedic specialist she saw ruled it out. He referred her to a rheumatologist, but Christine’s blood tested negative for inflammatory markers characteristic of RA.

As the pain traveled up to her lower legs and knees, she saw a second rheumatologist who also tested her blood. The second round came back negative, too, but based on the physical exam, she was diagnosed with RA.

She broke down crying in the doctor’s office. “My husband was overjoyed because I didn’t have a life-threatening illness,” she recalls. “The doctor was delighted because he could put me in a category. All I could think about was being crippled. It was one of the most devastating days of my life.”