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Books about MS and Cancer
(from our March telephone support group meeting)

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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 apt. 

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 adoptees.

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 long-range perspective.

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 him.   

Other books by celebrities with MS include:

 In this Together – Ann Romney

Fall Down Laughing – David Lander

The MS Recovery Diet – Ann Sawyer

Climbing Higher – Montel Williams

Speed Bumps – Teri Garr

Flooring It Through Hollywood – Teri Garr

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