Tatum O’Neal Reveals Her Ongoing Struggle with Rheumatoid Arthritis

“I can’t really tie my shoes. It means that I can’t, I mean, I can’t tie my shoes.”


It seems like Tatum O’Neal has been doing her best to manage her rheumatoid arthritis (RA). She said the condition has changed her life.

The 56-year-old actress had to undergo surgery for the condition. She said she might have to undergo additional surgeries on her neck and knee due to RA.

O’Neal told CBS Sunday Morning that her condition has affected much of her body. She said, “That means that my hands stopped working. It means that I can’t really tie my shoes. It means that I can’t, I mean, I can’t tie my shoes. I have to re-learn to write. And definitely need surgery on my left knee and my neck in the next week.”

The Academy Award-winning actress credited her daughter, Emily McEnroe, one of her three children with ex-husband, John McEnroe, for helping and supporting her through her rheumatoid arthritis struggles.

Emily said that O’Neal has been optimistic, stating, “My mom is incredibly loving. She’s childlike and has always been honest, like she said, fun-loving, just bright. My mom lights up every room that she enters. And that’s true.”

Last month, O’Neal shared a photo on her Instagram account, revealing her scarred and bruised back to show the consequences of living with the painful rheumatic condition.

RA is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own organs and tissue, including joints. It is a chronic inflammatory condition, which affects multiple joints, including smaller joints in the hands and feet, causing painful swelling.

Apart from suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, O’Neal has gone through difficult challenged in life. She had a strained relationship with her father, Ryan O’Neal, which they have since repaired and then she had to deal with a heroin addiction, which caused her to lose custody of her three children in 1998.

O’Neal explained that her children might have kept her alive during those difficult years.

She said of that time, “I was really ready to kind of fall down and – and not get back up. I was not myself. I was 22 and then the kids gave me kind of a real reason to keep going and fight.”

“And still the happiest times of my life were the times that I, that I was married, funny enough. So the most stable, the most loved, the most…so sometimes we’re thinking we made the right decision and maybe we aren’t. And I have to live with that, too.”