Blindsided: Lifting a Life above Illness

( 7 )


Richard Cohen, a veteran writer, producer and distinguished journalist, has lived with multiple sclerosis for over 25 years. Recently diagnosed again with colon cancer, Cohen describes his lifelong struggle with multiple sclerosis, his first bout with colon cancer, a loving marriage to Meredith Viera, the effect of illness on raising children, and the nature of denial and resilience, all told with grace, humour, and lyrical prose.

Cohen chronicles and celebrates a life brimming ...

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Richard Cohen, a veteran writer, producer and distinguished journalist, has lived with multiple sclerosis for over 25 years. Recently diagnosed again with colon cancer, Cohen describes his lifelong struggle with multiple sclerosis, his first bout with colon cancer, a loving marriage to Meredith Viera, the effect of illness on raising children, and the nature of denial and resilience, all told with grace, humour, and lyrical prose.

Cohen chronicles and celebrates a life brimming over with accomplishment, adversity and personal endeavour and his story has struck a chord with readers nation–wide. He has been interviewed by Barbara Walters for a nearly hour–long segment that ran on 20/20, he also appeared on wife Viera's program, The View and is scheduled for Charlie Rose, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, and the Paula Zahn Show, among others. Blindsided also received outstanding print attention and People magazine has run a first serial piece.

Autobiographical at its roots, reportorial and expansive, Blindsided builds on Cohen's story as a task aimed at emotional well–being, if not survival, pursued in sober tones that explore coping to its most redemptive and complex levels. Despite his extreme circumstances, Cohen's is a common struggle, recognisable as an integral part of humanity, and one which he explores with varying amounts of diligence, respect, personal revelation and humour.

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Editorial Reviews

Tom Brokaw
“Blindsided is beautifully written and utterly honest. May we all be so brave and caring in our own families.”
Beverly Sills
“I cannot remember ever being more profoundly moved by any book I have ever read.…Don’t miss this book.”
Doctor - Harold Varmus
"[Blindsided] paints an incredibly sharp picture of what it is like to live passionately—with joy, love, and anger."
Dr. Harold Varmus
“[Blindsided] paints an incredibly sharp picture of what it is like to live passionately—with joy, love, and anger.”
Seattle Times
“Eloquent and brutally honest.”
New York Times Book Review
“[A] powerful memoir, tough in the way Cohen’s old news bosses would have wanted it to be tough.”
Chicago Tribune
“...a warm, sarcastic, unflinching dissection of love, pain, laughter and wounded pride.”
The New York Times
Blindsided is a powerful memoir, tough in the way Cohen's old news bosses would have wanted it to be tough. It doesn't flinch and it doesn't whine. Its tone is more of self-horror than self-pity. Its incredulity matches Job's: ''Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?'' — D. T. Max
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060014100
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 235,751
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

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.

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First Chapter

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.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2004

    A must read for anyone living with MS or any chronic illness!!!

    Having just read the very last sentence I have tears in my eyes from the strong emotions I feel upon it's end. Words can't describe how well written and truly honest this book is. It will touch your heart and soul. This book will take you to places within your psyche that are so painful, gut wrenching and raw you will wonder how Richard could write in ways that you have always felt but were unable to put into words. I have MS and have read many books on the subject of living with a chronic illness. This is by far the best. If you or your family is living with illness this book is a must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2005

    A Very Revealing Insight to Chronic Disease

    My husband was diagnosed three months ago with colon cancer and I needed something to read to help me cope. Mr. Cohen's book was insightful, revealing, sensitive and very close to home. It helped me understand those male emotions much more. You are a tough guy, but your heart is intwined with your wife and kids. It took amazing strength for him to expose that much of himself and his family, especially when both he and his wife are public figures. When I watch the view now, I see pain in Meredith's eyes that no actor can hide. Dale Ann Petersen, Spokane, WA

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2004

    The Human Condition at its Best

    A great read. I kept lookng at the corner of the pages to make sure I didn't skip a page. If you are into books that reveal the human condition and its trials, this is a must read. Richard Cohen will take the reader on a journey that reveals his raw emotinons on how he deals with chronic illness. Emotions that run the gamit both high and low, but forever moving foward. As a reader, I was glad he had the courage to share his heavey hearted experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2004

    Mr. Cohen is a better writer than he says he is

    I purchased this book after seeing Mr. Cohen's interview with his wife on 20/20 and on The View. His writing has put me into the scene and shows me firsthand what he went through during his life. Mr. Cohen, you are a person someone like me can look up to.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2004

    A Book That Needed To Be Written

    'A Reluctant Memoir', the subtitle states, but this truly is a book that needed to be written, by the author and for the reader. The philosophy that emerges on these pages could only result from actual life experience. Richard Cohen has courageously chosen to forego his personal privacy to share his hard learned insights. 'Privacy belongs to those who feel they cannot reveal limitations they will not admit to themselves.', writes Cohen in this 'must read' for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of living and loving.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2004

    Inspiring and Sobering... A Journey of Pain and Triumph

    BLINDSIDED is a book sized small in width and length, however, it is powerfully-packed in content with exceptional use of words, phrases and sharing of personal privacy. Richard M. Cohen tells of his life, his family, his chronic illness with candor, wit, anger and courage. Cohen reveals heartache, emotional, physical and mental trials, with introspection of his actions and effect upon his family and self well-being. There are moments when Cohen sometimes goes within himself, leaving the reader, but faithfully he returns. At age 25, Cohen was diagnosed with beginning stages of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - a progressive disease. In later years, he battles recurring colon cancer with accompanying side effects, and deals with blindness attributed to side effects of MS. With honesty, the author vents the struggles of physical and mental pain. The fact that the medical profession was only mildly supportive in caring¿ unconcerned with applying the holistic approach, and the ramifications suffered by Mr. Cohen is appalling, a blemish on the medical profession -- albeit not a new occurrence. At the beginning there are natural denials ¿ Cohen states, 'Yes, denial can put the brain to sleep, anesthetizing the mind that refuses to face the truth and see the approaching freight train hauling the heavy load of heavy reality.' Some of his 'advisors' tell him¿ 'don't tell anyone'¿ then others say, 'tell about your illness'¿ 'full disclosure does not work in the real world¿' Either route presented problems¿ within these advisors are coworkers, peers, relating to the damage or not of telling employers and prospective employers. Attempting to live life to the fullest with courage and dignity, Cohen continues his participation in assignments of travel including Poland, Beirut, San Salvador, Middle East and China. From Richard Cohen¿ '¿ the formula for successful coping rests in the eye of the beholder¿ no magic¿ Making peace is not a one-shot deal but an effort that spans a lifetime. Coping takes discipline and self-control.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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