A longtime multiple sclerosis patient seeks the meaning of hope.
For four decades, award-winning journalist Cohen (Strong at the Broken Places: Voices of Illness, a Chorus of Hope, 2008, etc.) has lived with multiple sclerosis, a condition shared by his father and grandmother that has left him legally blind and with impaired movement. Through the years, the author has found many ways to cope with his condition (not to mention with two bouts of cancer), but he rarely thought of himself as having “hope.” An invitation to participate in stem cell research changed that. Throughout the book, Cohen touches on a variety of important themes, including how to live with chronic health conditions and the advancement of genetic treatments for such conditions. However, it is mainly a retelling of his own story, a means for catharsis. The author interviewed his children about their memories of him during their childhoods, during which he was prone to intense anger. The lack of any meaningful treatments for MS, as well as the lack of caring physicians, left Cohen with little to anticipate aside from a slowly degrading body. Meeting Dr. Saud Sadiq, however, forced him to look at his future anew. A pioneer in stem cell research for MS and a physician intensely committed to his patients, Sadiq allowed Cohen to experience not only hope for his own condition, but also encouragement that his suffering had not been in vain, that his treatment might lead the way to help for others. A committed nonbeliever, Cohen makes it clear that while many find hope in God—in one form or another—he does not. “For me, belief in the power of hope is linked to belief in the self.” Moreover, ties of family and friendship give people the very reason to hope. “Hope is a gift from us to us,” writes the author.
A clear and concise memoir of introspection, though Cohen’s journalistic approach may not provide abundant hope for readers.