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Blindsided: Lifting a Life above Illness CD

Blindsided: Lifting a Life above Illness CD

5.0 1
by Richard M. Cohen, Richard Ferrone (Read by)

Illness came calling when Richard M. Cohen was twenty-five years old. A young television news producer with expectations of a limitless future, his foreboding that his health was not quite right turned into the harsh reality that something was very wrong when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For thirty years Cohen has done battle with MS only to be ambushed by


Illness came calling when Richard M. Cohen was twenty-five years old. A young television news producer with expectations of a limitless future, his foreboding that his health was not quite right turned into the harsh reality that something was very wrong when 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 written 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."

Autobiographical at its roots, reportorial, and expansive, Blindsided explores the effects of illness on raising three children and on his relationship with 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 dealing with illness is not the way he chose to live his life, it did choose him.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1972, when he was 25, Cohen, an up-and-coming television journalist, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease for which there is no cure. In this wrenching memoir, he tells how he has for the past 30 years succeeded in his determination to "cope and to hope." For a long time, he hid his condition from friends and co-workers, taking on dangerous assignments for CBS in Poland, Lebanon and El Salvador even though his mobility and vision were impaired. He became a senior producer at CBS, and although he eventually quit the station in 1987 because he felt it was pandering to commercial and political pressures, he worked as a producer for PBS, CNN and Fox until he left TV in the late 1990s to become a writer and teacher. In spite of his illness, he also married and had three children. He nearly lost his courage in 1999 when he learned that he had colon cancer, but after two operations and the realization that despair and anger would drive his family away, he come to grips with this, too. In painful detail, he chronicles the progress of multiple sclerosis-the increasing numbness in his hands and legs and the resultant falls, loss of vision to the point where he is now legally blind and, lately, mental confusion. Nevertheless, he writes: "These pages are not about suffering.... This book is about surviving and flourishing, rising above fear and self-doubt and, of course, anger." His wife, Meredith Vieira, a well-known television personality, has been portrayed in popular magazines as a martyr who bears a terrible burden. Cohen proves that nothing could be further from the truth. First serial rights to People magazine. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
An accomplished journalist and self-described "recovering network and television news producer" with three Emmys to his credit, Cohen has been fighting multiple sclerosis (MS) for decades and, on top of that, has had two bouts with colon cancer. "How much can one guy take?" one might ask. Cohen, married to View cohost Meredith Vieira and with three children, has wondered himself but here chose to focus on "surviving and flourishing, rising above fear and self-doubt and, of course, anger." Throughout, he shows a humorous side that is vulnerable, without self-indulgence and with acceptance and recognition of the inevitability of a progressive disease. As a result, Cohen has managed to put into words what many MS sufferers either can't or won't. A powerful and agonizingly frank description of a life with which many chronically ill people and their families will identify, this is highly recommended for all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03.]-Mary Nickum, Ivinss UT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Longtime journalist and former television producer Cohen recounts with aplomb and high character his years battling chronic illness. This couldn't have been easy to write. The author is reticent by nature, so laying bare the impact of multiple sclerosis and cancer-his malfunctioning limbs, numb appendages, bad gut, loss of vision, his anger, his fragile grip on life-is an act of emotional health that, though salubrious, clashes with some of his basic instincts. Multiple sclerosis has no treatment, no certain outcome, no definitive cause, and no cure; it is a process, a grim pileup on the central nervous system. Cohen tested limits, postponed consequences, and practiced denial, then started learning the art of candor: to whom and when to be honest about his illness. After stints in Gdansk and Beirut, this television producer on a rip admitted that his death-defying behavior was absurd, that he was not right and fit as rain. Nonetheless, he wanted (along with other things, like walking upright and seeing straight) a woman in his life and a family. He found Meredith Vieira, also in the TV business, whose desire to be a hands-on mother made her a cause celebre among some in the 60 Minutes studio. And Cohen was busy elsewhere, with their children, learning that "those who battle with illness are blind to the fact that even in our pain, we give to our loved ones, even as we receive." As a parent, he realized, "a temporary ileostomy was the least of my worries. . . . I laughed ruefully, bitterly, at the situation and at myself." Via a number of sources, Cohen ultimately learns that coping is "just a quiet task aimed at emotional well-being, if not survival," and that there will likely be manyjarring moments ahead for everyone. He lays out these lessons in unflappable prose, freely acknowledging that his behavior is not always so even-tempered. A sharp and affecting piece of perspective-setting. Agent: Joann Davis

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 6 CDs, 5 hrs. 30 min.
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.72(h) x 0.77(d)

Read an Excerpt

Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir

Chapter One

A Dream and a Diagnosis

Perhaps I should have seen the ambush coming while I was in college. Warnings came in the darkness of restless nights. There was a foreboding, the uneasy feeling that followed a recurring dream that always unsettled me. Those late-night movies would follow me wherever I traveled and laid my head for the night. They were still playing long after the diploma was in my hand and I had hit the road.

In these dramas, I would be vying fiercely on a basketball court or football field, playing a high-pressure, exquisitely rough game. Always, there was a clock loudly ticking. The action would provide amusement for a while, but as the score got closer and time grew shorter, the pressure became intense. Even in my sleep, I began to sweat. The contest took on a fierceness that was threatening.

My legs became rubbery. Losing strength, they began to buckle. In the final minutes, with the crowd on its feet and the screaming deafening, I would fall to the floor, ball in hand, no longer able to stand, let alone engage in athletic combat. The team would lose by a single point. The dream was unnerving, and even as it recurred, I did not know what meaning to attach.

More upsetting was the same theme played out in a more threatening, intense arena with my life at stake. This dream was staged on the field of battle, and it came all too frequently. I would be running hard, sweating and breathing wildly. Again, my legs gave out and folded beneath me, leaving me powerless to protect myself from an enemy about to strike a lethal blow. I hyperventilated my way through battle, uncertain that I would survive and always in that fevered state of panic.

Considerable time was spent mulling over these dreams. America was fighting in Vietnam, and I assumed the two dreams reflected my fears of that war. But introspection was not my specialty in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Politics was, and soon journalism would be my calling. I had chosen Simpson College, a progressive school outside Des Moines, Iowa, as my venue for an education. Simpson was far from home. I needed distance. I was a rebellious middleclass kid from West Hartford, a Connecticut Yankee celebrating the culture of my time and courting all the political conflict a person could handle.

My training as a troublemaker had begun in high school. By graduation, I could have taught the course. I had my early indication that I was temperamentally suited for the future work I would do. In the summer of my junior year in high school, my friends and I broke into the recently abandoned Connecticut State Prison, a medieval fortress at Wethersfield, and stole the ancient electric chair. I thought it was a moment of high meaning. My father saw it as a stupid prank that could not be tolerated. The chair was returned the next day. I have yet to forgive him.

I had been thrown off athletic teams and suspended from school. Getting ejected from class was as routine as eating lunch. Other parents were quietly telling their teenage children to stay away from me. I was such an outcast, a ne'er-do-well on my way to forging a feisty, anti-everything identity, that a career in journalism seemed a logical choice. I certainly did not see myself in the olive uniform that was fast becoming the dress of the day.

The anti-Vietnam War movement consumed me early in college, and I joined the famous "kiddy-crusade," that vast squadron of activists campaigning in 1968 to nominate Senator Eugene McCarthy as the Democratic presidential candidate. Along with my peers, I went "Clean for Gene," my hair respectably cut and beard gone as we sought to dump Lyndon Johnson. I spent the summer in the Southwest and at the riotous Democratic National Convention in Chicago. A lot of us learned at a tender age important lessons about power and politics and the workings of the world that year. I was twenty, and what I took away was the value of perseverance and how to become resourceful, qualities that would rescue me from invisible enemies for the rest of my life. Formative years do write a teaching plan for living. Mine included a toughness that has served me well ever since.

I had been included in the first selective service lottery to determine who would be forced to go to war in Southeast Asia. I watched the dreaded drawing on my ancient black-and-white television. That game of televised roulette was a defining moment for every man in my generation. The lottery was over for me before it ever really started. I trembled as I heard February 14, my birthday, read out and repeated, over and over. It was number 4. That low number guaranteed me a free uniform and at least a one-way ticket to the faraway fight.

I considered going to jail or even to Canada to avoid a war I deeply opposed. Instead I took the easy way out. I escaped the draft and military service with middle-class privilege and a friendly physician's exaggerated diagnosis of a serious neurological condition.

The deception pained me. Presumably, someone drew a higher lottery number and a ticket to terror in Asia instead of me. I did what I thought I had to. I was struggling to survive. We all were, but I was not proud.

I stayed in school and kept working to spread dissent. In 1969, I crossed paths with Peter Jennings, who was then reporting on antiwar activities for ABC radio. I and some of my friends glued ourselves to him for a few days, eating and drinking and talking about politics. Peter had covered the conflict in Vietnam and was willing to talk openly about his life as long as we left the marijuana home. He was passionate about journalism, and I began to rethink my future. That is what I want to do, I thought ...

Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir
. Copyright © by Richard Cohen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet 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.

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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Blindsided: Lifting a Life above Illness CD 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I have been a fan of Meredith Vieira, but I also bought it becuase I am a member of a family. I am an Occupational Therapy Assistant so I am constantly working with people who have disabilities. Some that they are able to over come and others that they must learn to live with daily. This book allowed me to understand what my patients go through and to understand what their families go through. I am also the daughter of a mother who was diagnosed 6 years ago with a rare kidney disease which has caused may up and down days. There have been many questions that go unanswered. I recommend this book to every family as a way to learn how to survive the obsticales with love and humor.