Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir

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9780060014094: Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir

Illness came calling when Richard M. Cohen was twenty-five years old. He was a young television news producer with expectations of a limitless future, and his foreboding that his health was not quite right turned into the harsh reality that something was very wrong when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For thirty years Cohen has done battle with MS, only to be ambushed by two bouts of colon cancer at the end of the millennium. And yet, he has writ-ten a hopeful book about celebrating life and coping with chronic illness.

"Welcome to my world," writes Cohen, "where I carry around dreams, a few diseases, and the determination to live life my way. This book is my daily conversation with myself, a chronicle of the struggles in that exotic place just north of the neck. At the moment, my attitude checks out well. I do believe I'm winning."

Autobiographical at its roots, reportorial, and expansive, Blindsided explores the effects of illness on raising three children and on his relationship with his wife, Meredith Vieira (host of ABC's The View and the syndicated Who Wants To Be A Millionaire). Cohen tackles the nature of denial and resilience, the ins and outs of the struggle for emotional health, and the redemptive effects of a loving family. And while he may not have chosen to live with illness, illness did choose him. Written with grace, humor, and lyrical prose, Blindsided presents a life brimming over with accomplishment and joy in adversity.

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Review:

In this moving and engrossing memoir, veteran television news producer Richard Cohen relates a life spent dealing with multiple sclerosis, first diagnosed when he was 25 years old and just getting started in the competitive world of broadcast journalism. As his career progressed, he struggled not only with the disease but the touchy question of how much of the truth about himself to share with colleagues and potential employers. Cohen spent much of his life running from the onset of the disease's symptoms from which his father and grandmother also suffered. Defiantly, he took challenging, sometimes extremely dangerous assignments in Lebanon, Poland, and on the domestic political campaign trail, even as his body deteriorated. But over the course of Blindsided, it becomes apparent that illness had actually built Cohen up even as it ripped him apart. Without the physical and mental toughness required to navigate a journalist's life while fighting back loss of eyesight and poor equilibrium, it's doubtful that the flaky kid we meet early in the book would transform into the award-winning professional Cohen eventually becomes. His marriage to journalist Meredith Vieira, every bit his equal as both newshound and deadpan cynical comic, gave Cohen the stable family life and children he needed when MS made it impossible to continue in a traditional news job. But two bouts with colon cancer in the late 1990s tested his resolve and his family's patience. While Cohen is both courageous and inspirational, Blindsided is not the overly sentimental clichéd tale that stories about fighting illness often become. He refuses to paint himself as the hero (except when making fun of his own failure to be heroic) and recounts in detail the strain that he put on his marriage and children. Stories such as this often end with the memoirist arriving at a state of peace and mental clarity but again Cohen remains more compelling and credible by offering no such pat answers. As with most people fighting to preserve their families, their lives, and their bodies, Richard Cohen's is an ongoing struggle. --John Moe

About the Author:

Richard M. Cohen's distinguished career in journalism earned him numerous awards, including three Emmys and a George Foster Peabody Award. He lives outside New York City with his wife, Meredith Vieira, and their three children.

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