Tatum O'Neal says dealing with rheumatoid arthritis is her biggest challenge ever

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Oscar-winning actress Tatum O'Neal.

CBS News

Oscar-winning actor Tatum O'Neal has battled addiction and tabloid headlines in the past. However, dealing with rheumatoid arthritis is her biggest challenge ever, she tells Tracy Smith in an interview for "CBS Sunday Morning," to be broadcast Sunday, February 9.

O'Neal, who was just 10 years old when she won an Academy Award for her work in the 1973 film "Paper Moon," said rheumatoid arthritis can make every move a painful struggle.

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Ryan O'Neal and Tatum O'Neal as a team of con artists in the 1973 comedy-drama "Paper Moon." Paramount Pictures

"That means that my hands stopped working. It means that – I can't really tie my shoes," she said. "I have to re-learn to write. And definitely need surgery on my left knee and my neck in the next week."

O'Neal told Smith that, through it all, her daughter, actor Emily McEnroe, has been her rock.

"My mom is incredibly loving," McEnroe said. "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."

In a wide-ranging interview, O'Neal opens up about her acting career; her children; and her relationships with her ex-husband, tennis great John McEnroe, and with her father, actor Ryan O'Neal.

O'Neal, 56, said she and McEnroe are on good terms now, and that their three children may have saved her life.

"I was really ready to kind of fall down and, and not get back up. I was not myself," O'Neal said of being a young, married mother of three at the time. "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 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."

Asked what decision she was referring to, she told Smith she means the decision to leave her marriage. "That maybe looking back, it wasn't the right decision?" Smith asked.

"Perhaps not," O'Neal replied. "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 Emmy Award-winning "Sunday Morning" is broadcast on CBS Sundays beginning at 9 a.m. ET, and is rebroadcast on Pop TV at 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT. "Sunday Morning" also streams on CBSN beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET and repeated at 1 p.m. ET, and is available on cbs.com, CBS All Access and On Demand.

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