Thursday, September 15, 2011

Invisible Illness Book Review

Photo courtesy of

 I was offered a chance to review the book "Take Me Home From The Oscars-Arthritis, Television, Fashion and Me" by Christine Schwab, a true Hollywood fashionista.  I jumped at it.  Christine has Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and hid it for twenty years. 

I wanted to wait to do the review during Invisible Illness Awarenss Week, because like me, Christine Schwab wrote this book to raise awareness for a mostly invisible illness, RA.

Christine Schwab worked in the television industry, specifically, doing makeovers on shows like Regis and Kathy Lee, then Regis and Kelly, Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, and more.  In the Hollywood limelight, she discovered she had an autoimmune disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis.  And she told no one but her beloved husband, Shelly Schwab, president of television distribution at Universal Studios.

The title of the book comes from a real experience:  She and her husband were on their way to the Academy Awards, and Christine was in terrible pain.  She had managed to jam her feet into her heels, but could barely walk.  Once in their seats, the pain became unbearable, and they actually walked out of the Academy Awards.

Christine knew that she had to hide her disease.  She did fashion makeovers on television!  She had to look perfect.  People with arthritis didn't work on television. So she made excuses, found reasons to wear sneakers, and lied...a lot.  All because she felt ashamed and afraid.

I could relate a lot to this book.  While I didn't hide my illness, I was with Christine emotionally every step as her body betrayed her.  She hid for twenty years her pain, her anguish, her illness.  That is why I'm so thankful for National Invisible Illness Awareness Week.

There seems to be a stigma attached to invisible illnesses that has been difficult to shake.  People who are sick but LOOK okay get judged frequently.  They are marked as lazy, crazy hypochondriacs.  And we are NOT.  We are sick people who may not look sick.  We need acceptance, not judgement.  I find it overwhemingly sad that Christine felt she had to hide an illness that was no fault of her own for 20 years before realizing it was okay to speak out.

Here are some interesting statistics about chronic and invisible illness, thanks to

*By 2020, about 157 million Americans will be affected by chronic illness.
*The divorce rate among the chronically ill is 75%.
*Physical illness or uncontrollable pain account for almost 70% of all suicides.
*Nineteen million people who are severely disabled do NOT use a walker, cane or crutches.
*Sixty percent of chronically ill people are between the ages of 18 and 64.
*About 96% of illnesses are invisible.  These include autism, bulemia, depression, mental illness, bipolar disorder, multiple sclerosis (MS), myasthenia gravis (MG), fibromyalgia, asthma, brain tumors, dysautonomia, Lyme disease, Alzheimer's, lupus, cancer, diabetes, migraine, dementia, scleroderma, and many, many more.

Christine Schwab does an amazing job writing her story and sharing her fears and concerns about her invisible illness.  She deserves a lot of credit for using her experience to shine the Hollywood lights on chronic illnesses like RA.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a chronic illness or takes care of someone who does.

From the Publisher:   

About the Author
Christine Schwab is a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle television reporter and author.  She has been a recurring guest on Oprah, NBC Nightly News, CBS's The Early Show, The Today Show, Live with Regis and Kelly, Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Rachael Ray, Inside Edition, and E! Entertainment.  Schwab has also been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine; Newsweek; Vanity Fair; Ladies Home Journal; Women's World; The Chicago Tribune; The Huffington Post; and The Washington Post Magazine. She is the author of Quickstyle and The Grown-Up Girl's Guide to Style.  Schwab lives in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo credit Rich Marchewka

1 comment:

Joanna said...

I'm glad she wrote this and that you are doing Invisible illness awareness especially in the light of Pat Robinson saying it's okay to divorce over illnesses. Way to add abandonment on top of everything else, sheesh!