Since 1999, after my 20th
year of living with MS, I found out I had breast cancer. Since then, I have been searching for
information about how others have coped with that dual diagnosis.
Recently, I found Blindsided: Lifting a Life above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir
by Richard M. Cohen, who was diagnosed with MS at age 25,
just as Washington DC was caught up in Watergate and his career was taking
off. In his preface, Cohen describes his
story to be about the search for emotional health, not about sickness. Cohen, like me, was first diagnosed with MS
through vision loss as the result of optic neuritis. Years later he was diagnosed with colon
cancer and endured two surgeries, one at diagnosis and one later at a
reoccurrence. After his second round of
surgery for colon cancer he described his malady as “A gut that I couldn’t sell
at a used car lot, no money down”.
Cohen worked as a broadcast
journalist at ABC, Issues and Answers and was a producer for Walter Cronkite
and Dan Rather at CBS, a documentarian for Bill Moyers at PBS, and also for
CNN. As you might imagine his
descriptions of MS, colon cancer, and the dual diagnosis is descriptive and
In Blindsided, he describes his raw emotions of bitterness, anger, and
powerlessness, while rejecting others who found solace in faith or religion.
Even while exhibiting severely poor eyesight, he took dangerous assignments in
the Middle East and Central America.
During his journey with MS and
cancer he was married to a fellow journalist, Meredith Viera, and they had three
children. He published the book in 2004.
In 2008 he wrote Strong in the Broken Places, where he
followed five people with chronic diseases other than MS – ALS (Lou Gehrigs
disease), non-Hodgkins lymphoma, muscular dystrophy, Chrohns disease, and bipolar
disorder – Denice, Buzz, Ben, Sarah and Larry. In writing the stories, his negative attitudes
from Blindsided were slowly mitigated.
His third book, I Want to Kill the Dog, was published in
2012. There were plenty of LOL
moments. He and his wife, Meredith, were
on opposite ends of the rainbow when it comes to pets. It is refreshing to know that accomplished
and famous people still have open disagreements. Meredith loves and accumulates dogs, not
always the size and temperament suitable to Richard. In fact, he has open dislike for her
Although these three books are not
a trilogy, I noticed a marked transition in his attitude about his dual
diagnoses of cancer and MS. There is
some bitterness and anger in Blindsided
and then in meeting others with chronic and terminal diseases he became more
accepting. This third book was
hilarious. He seems to have changed a
close-up view of his dual diagnoses that defined his life to a more integrated
Coping is a skill that he has honed
over the years. “Coping must be relearned everyday”. His books are well written and his
observations witty and wise.
I regret that it took me so long to find
Other books by celebrities with MS
this Together – Ann Romney
Down Laughing – David Lander
MS Recovery Diet – Ann Sawyer
Higher – Montel Williams
Bumps – Teri Garr
It Through Hollywood – Teri Garr