Strong at the Broken Places by Richard M. Cohen is the remarkable story of five ordinary people trapped in the difficult and challenging world of serious chronic illness. Cohen spent three years chronicling the lives of five diverse ‘citizens of sickness’: Denise, who suffers from ALS; Buzz, whose Christian faith helps him deal with his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; Sarah, a determined young woman with Crohn’s disease; Ben, a college student with muscular dystrophy; and Larry, whose bipolar disorder is hidden within. The five are different in age and gender, race and economic status, but they are determined to live life on their own terms. Cohen formed intense relationships with each; he talked to their families and friends, and shared joy, even in heart-breaking setbacks. Though each individual’s illness wreaks havoc in a different way, Cohen shows how their experiences are strikingly similar and offer us lessons on self-determination, on courage in the face of adversity and public ignorance, on keeping hope alive, and on finding strength and peace under the most difficult of circumstances. We are strong at the broken places, stronger than we think. In sharing these inspirational and revealing stories, Cohen and his fellow warriors against illness offer a chorus of hope.
Richard M. Cohen was due to address the Friedreich’s Ataxia Symposium in Philadelphia last November but was unable to do so as he was unwell. Having read this book in preparation for the symposium it’s worth noting that although this is a challenging and tough book to read, it offers an insight into the world of chronic illness and the determination of those who carry on despite everything.