Tatum O’Neal Reveals Painful Battle With Rheumatoid Arthritis: ‘My Hands Stopped Working’

An Oscar winner at age 10, Tatum O’Neal has overcome addiction and a messy divorce from tennis great John McEnroe. Now, however, she’s opening up about facing what may be her biggest challenge so far: rheumatoid arthritis.

O’Neal, 56, sits down with Tracy Smith on the next edition of “CBS Sunday Morning” to reveal that her arthritis can make even the smallest things become a painful struggle.

“That means that my hands stopped working,” O’Neal says. “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.”

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Throughout her health struggles, says O’Neal, her daughter Emily McEnroe has been there for her every step of the way.

“My mom is incredibly loving,” Emily McEnroe says. “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.”

During the wide-ranging interview, O’Neal speaks candidly about her acting career, her children, and her relationships with ex McEnroe and with her father, actor Ryan O’Neal, with whom she shared the screen for her Oscar-winning performance in “Paper Moon”.

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Despite the ugliness of their divorce, O’Neal says they’re now on far better terms, crediting their three children as a source of strength.

“I was really ready to kind of fall down and — and not get back up. I was not myself,” O’Neal says. “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.”

She clarifies, explaining the decision she’s referring to is the decision to leave her marriage. “That maybe looking back it wasn’t the right decision?” Smith asks.

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“Perhaps not,” O’Neal responds. “I was loved. I was cared for. We are very different now. But, I, he’s happier, and I’m happy for him. And that makes me happy.”

The full interview can be seen on Sunday, Feb. 9.

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