Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 43

 

Christine Schwab

Simple tasks that became impossible because of rheumatic disease:

  • Grocery shopping (reaching for items)
  • Cutting food with a knife
  • Opening bottles
  • Blow drying hair
  • Talking on the phone (holding the handset)

Overview

Christine Schwab’s life revolved around style and beauty. When diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, she thought her world was crumbling down. The help of her rheumatologist — who became her close friend and strongest ally — helped Christine find hope and the strength to live her life as she always wanted.

Christine’s Story: Hollywood’s Ultimate Fashion Correspondent

Christine is a successful fashion and beauty correspondent who spends her days running from one television appearance to another. It was during a makeover segment on “LIVE! With Regis & Kathie Lee” that Christine came to the realization that something was very wrong. While walking, Christine began to experience persistent foot pain that slowly moved up her legs. She immediately sought the advice of several doctors, but became discouraged when they could not explain her pain. After visiting four doctors, Christine was told that she was experiencing the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limitation in the motion and function of multiple joints. Though joints are the principal body parts affected by RA, inflammation can develop in other organs as well.

Christine was shocked at the diagnosis because she had always believed ‘arthritis’ to only strike elderly people, a perception she would later work hard to change. Tormented by thoughts that RA would leave her crippled, Christine became determined to find a specialist who could treat her symptoms and help maintain her active lifestyle.

Living with a Rheumatic Disease: Partners in Hope

Christine worked closely with her rheumatologist, Kenneth Kalunian, MD, and the two quickly became partners – outlining wants, motivations, and the requirements to keep Christine moving forward. With Dr. Kalunian’s help, Christine never missed a day of work and learned how to adapt to obstacles. For example, when she could no longer wear high heels during television shoots, Christine developed a fashionable sneaker collection; when she could not lift the blow dryer to do her hair, she relied on her 2 array of stylish caps; and when her joints were so inflamed that she could not cut her meat at dinners, she stopped ordering it. And, with each new struggle, Dr. Kalunian was there to offer her hope.

Christine’s Window of Opportunity: Hollywood Advocate

While her struggles have been trying, Christine has become an advocate and shares her experience of fighting RA. The disease has also inspired her to write a book, Take Me Home From the Oscars. The book chronicles Christine’s personal story of living an amazing life in television while suffering from RA. And, just as Dr. Kalunian has dedicated himself to helping Christine and other patients like her, Christine has dedicated her book to Dr. Kalunian.

Though her health has improved, Christine takes nothing for granted and devotes herself to telling others about RA and the importance of working together with their rheumatologists. She believes that, “finding a good doctor is imperative to our health care, and if we — as patients — were more proactive in our search, it may help increase the rate of early diagnosis and prevent further damage.” In remission for 11 years, Christine still maintains regular contact with Dr. Kalunian who remains patient, nurturing, and hopeful.

Christine and her rheumatologist were partners in her care and with his help, she was able to find her window of opportunity and continue moving forward. Early and appropriate treatment from a rheumatologist can help millions of Americans with rheumatic diseases find their own window of opportunity too.