a Life Above Illness
0060014091, 256 Pages
by Florence Edelman,
At the age of 25 Richard Cohen heard the words," you
have MS." Thus begins a journey of one man"s
determination to fend off acknowledging this diagnosis and the physical limitations that
accompany a degenerative neurologic process. People respond to illness in very individual
ways; there are differences in personality, culture, religion and family
dynamics that influence the uniqueness of responses. Multiple Sclerosis reveals
itself in many forms and no two people exhibit the same scope of impairment. For
Richard Cohen loss of vision in his right eye, soon after his diagnosis, was the
first disruption in his life as a high profile television news producer and
foreign correspondent. He did not readily share his diagnosis with colleagues
or network executives. As Cohen stated, "candor and career were
Cohen eloquently describes the gradual loss
of sensation and motor function on the right side of his body and the loss of
vision leading to legal blindness 13 years after the initial diagnosis. Two
bouts with colon cancer added to the stresses within his family and contributed to
retirement from formal employment.
Throughout this "reluctant memoir"
his strong determination to deny the encroaching physical limitations and overcome the
struggle with his body leaves the reader with a sense of admiration and frustration.
Cohen equates physical weakness and dependence with emotional weakness. He
views silence regarding physical difficulties as strength. His denial
mechanism initially kept his three children uninformed about his condition although they
were witness to his stumbles and falls. Accepting the use of a cane appears to
be the sole concession for physical assistance.
Cohen almost convinces the reader that he can
no longer deceive himself about the need to accommodate to his changing
physical status, denial and reality are at odds he writes. Yet he and his family
move out of NYC to the suburbs into a two-story house when negotiating
stairs is both visually and motorically difficult. Cohen acknowledges that heat is
the enemy of MS, and recounts an episode of leaving the train station one hot
summer day, climbing up steep hills to his home dragging his feet and exhausted
by the trek. He did not call a taxi or arrange for someone to pick him up. His
determination is admirable but it does not allow him to fully accept or
incorporate much needed physical modifications into his daily life.
This is a very compelling story of a man who
refuses to define his life by illness.
Richard M. Cohen
Richard M. Cohen is a former senior producer for CBS News and CNN, a three-time Emmy Award
winner, and the recipient of numerous honors in journalism. He is a contributor to
the "Health and Fitness" section of the New York Times and lives with
his family outside New York City.
Dr. Florence Edelman"s professional
career spans almost 5 decades. She joined the Communication Sciences Program"s
faculty at HunterCollege, of the City University of New York, in 1976 and served as the
Director of the Program"s Center for Communication Disorders from 1985
until retirement in 2003. During this period she was responsible for
supervising all diagnostic and therapeutic services provided by the Center"s clinical
faculty and graduate students.
Dr. Edelman"s teaching duties included
Craniofacial Speech Disorders, Post-Operative Laryngectomy and Glossectomy Speech &
Voice Rehabilitation and Neurogenic Speech Disorders. In 1998 she received the
President"s Award for Excellence in Service to the College and in the same year was the
recipient of the New York City Speech-Language-Hearing Association"s Public Service Award.
Dr. Edelman holds Certification from ASHA in
Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.