This month in the MLWT Shelfari.com group , and continuing through March, we are discussing the book Unexpected Blessings: Stories of Hope and Healing (Penguin Group, 2009) written by Roxanne Black (now Black-Weisheit). I received her book from her publishing rep last year, had just come across the LFA’s book recommendation list and set it aside until I had the chance to speak with her personally. This month, we managed to speak on the phone and, I have to say, I was absolutely impressed with her.
But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the book, first. There are three main reasons why I would’ve bought this book, even if they hadn’t sent it to me.
The first reason is that once you open the book, it invites you in with a sense of gentle honesty that isn’t here to offer you tips, recommendations, discuss medical treatments or divulge all of the unfathomable details of illness that are found in some other lupus books. In their (other authors’) defense, there is a time and a place that we sometimes have to visit the ugliness to help us find the peace, and I would hate to not see those books available to us. Roxanne’s book, however, is written with the intention to create a connection with the reader on some of the thoughts and experiences she has had over the years, in order to give reassurance that even the most challenging times are filled with humor, irony, possibility and encouragement. It isn’t only for those of us with lupus, but covers life with chronic illness as a whole. In fact, this book offers insights into the roles her caretakers, family and friends have meant to her and I recommend it to anyone who lives and loves someone facing any illness. Some people she speaks to and of include Christopher and Dana Reeve, a couple of champions on the perserverance and hope found within the human spirit.
The second reason is related to the first, in that this book is a very light, quick read. It isn’t meant to be heavy or burdensome to the reader. Instead, it reads like a moment shared that we often have with those people we trust and delivered in a style similar to those books offering the readers a ‘thought for the day’. The chapters are glimpses into Roxanne’s thoughts, discussions, experiences and situations that she shares readily and with grace. I could go to the book, read a chapter within minutes, get what she was pointing out and then continue with my day with a lingering notion of gratitude for being so lucky living with a mild form of lupus, hopeful that I will make some key and inspiring connections, calmed down in knowing that things will work out however they will. This is a reference book I will keep handy for my heart, for a chance to visit a moment shared.
Lastly, the third reason I would’ve chosen this book is more personal in nature. It wasn’t until I read the cover and followed the link to Friends’ Health Connection did I realize just how similar MLWT is to what she began years earlier. Our project focuses on building community and stronger lupus resources here in Oregon and SW Washington, but it shares the same premise:
that it simply takes finding one person who is going through things similar to what you are, to assure you that you don’t have to go through things alone, if you don’t want to.
I had never heard of FHC, primarily because I didn’t reach out to others when I faced my own diagnosis. I was the poster child of relationship-focused coping, where I circled inward and focused on parenting my two young girls, attempting to minimize the impact my lupus had on their lives. They were an outlet for me to postpone thinking too much about my health, future and fears, offering me instead a feeling of control in something at a time when I felt I had little. Roxanne began her network in hopes of learning and connecting with others who were going through the same things she was, which I may have done, too, if I were a teen when my lupus arrived. Since the late eighties, she has built an amazing ahead-of-its-time resource whose framework has been duplicated by many of the networks we now see online today. The added feature that FHC offers, that I think is key in what makes her network truly exceptional, is how it honors the individuality of each person’s experience and connects them with someone who shares similar experiences to make a very strong resource connection. Our PORT program does the same thing, but her network is worldwide in offering perhaps a little more personal space and many more potential points of connection.
You can read more about what others have written about Roxanne and her book, not to mention an excerpt here . When I spoke with her on the phone, I wanted to branch out a little from what has already been written and narrow the focus onto lupus itself and the future plans she has for FHC. I will cover that in the next post.
Check out her book through the Powell’s link here on the website or her website. You can also catch up on the discussion (which gets more lurking than participation this round, but that’s fine) through our Shelfari Book Group link on the sidebar as you read this post. She has agreed to participate and answer any questions you have about her, her book or the Friends’ Health Connection, so take advantage of her generosity!
She is a wonderful person, not only in the stories she shares in her book, but also in the genuine hope that she has for anyone facing life with illness. I strongly encourage you to get to know more about her~
I was not paid for this review. Roxanne’s marketing coordinator sent me a copy of her book for review. The opinions expressed are all mine and I thank Roxanne for allowing me this gracious opportunity.