I have another book review, staying true to theme of my fascination with NBC/media icons.
This time I turned the pages of Hoda Kotb’s new book, Ten Years Later.
Hoda hosts the last hour of the Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford. Just like with Never Going Back, I noticed her book was promoted on the Today Show. There’s nothing better than convenient publicity!
This new non-fiction book contains six short stories about the lives of people who faced extreme adversity in their life. Hoda, with help from another writer, Jane Lorenzini, recounts each person’s struggle and then writes about the way they reflect on that struggle and stay positive ten years later.
Here is a snapshot of each struggling theme along with a summary of the person’s story:
Weight loss and domestic violence: In her twenties, Amy Barnes worked an administrative job at a county office. She was romanced by an older, attractive man who eventually became her husband. She became comfortable with her life and her food choices, all the while not noticing the weight she gained along the way. Soon, Amy’s love (they named him Robert for this book) started to act controlling. He would screen her phone calls and question her whereabouts. We’ve got a stalker here! It was the aspect of control that made Robert physically abuse Amy to the point that she would escape multiple times in the middle of the night with her two young sons. Amy’s parents pleaded for her to leave Robert, yet Amy always found a way back to him. She was helpless and encumbered by her weight.
Cancer: Lindsay Beck was a twenty-something who was healthy and beginning a career in sales. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with cancer on her tongue that she realized cancer can affect your life even years after a person is cured. Radiation can cause infertility, and doctors were not informing patients of this risk. After Lindsay educated herself, she made it a mission to educate others.
Drug Addiction: Patrick Weiland became a renowned TV producer in his twenties. He won the Peabody award at 22 years old when he didn’t even know what the award signified! Patrick was a gay man in a relationship. During a big career move, he was diagnosed with HIV. The anxiety from the illness led him to seek solace in crystal meth. He spiraled into a deep drug addiction that led him to slowly leave his producer job at NBC. Throughout this time, his sister was in an abusive relationship. When Patrick took a hiatus to spend time with family and become sober, he lost his sister to domestic violence. Patrick then became powerless until he had one brief moment of clarity to get out of the hole.
Brain Surgery: Diane Van Deren was a recognized athlete in Colorado. She found the love of her life and they started a perfect life together in the eighties. It wasn’t until they had children than Diane began to experience extreme seizures that neither Diane nor medics could control. It literally turned her family’s life upside down. It wasn’t until the constant contact Diane had with medics that she learned if a portion of her brian where the seizures started was removed, she may longer experience the exacerbating fits of paralysis and extreme shock from these seizures. Her family was horrified that Diane would fall into a seizure fit at any moment. The procedure and Diane’s newfound love of running literally saves her life.
9/11: Ron Clifford was an Irish man who was very close to his family. Ron found himself waiting for a meeting in the World Trade Center on a Tuesday morning like any other when unexpectedly a burning woman appeared and Ron rushed to her aide and saving grace. That horrific day Ron witnessed the deaths of thousands of innocent lives. Couples jumping from the building, holding hands, was ingrained in his memory. It wasn’t until he learned that dear family members were on one of the flights that crashed into the twin towers that Ron’s life was turned upside down.
Poverty and Family Estrangement: Roxanne Quimby fell in love in her first semester of college. She moved away from her family and across the country to live with a senior classman. They were an artistic duo; Roxanne rebelled against her family’s request for a business education and a stable lifestyle. Roxanne and George married without her father’s blessing and purchased property in Northern Maine. They lived off the land and needed very little. The couple began to raise a family and Roxanne gave birth to twins. It wasn’t until a few years that Roxanne felt penned up and needed release. She left her husband and searched for a way to support her children. Somehow Roxanne scraped enough together to allow survival for herself and her babies. A rather gruff man who Roxanne encounters while hitch hiking turns out to create a career for her and bring Roxanne and her father back together many years later.
I don’t want to give away everything about each person’s life story. I can say that the struggle defines each person’s life outlook today. At the time of the despair, they denied the struggle from defining their life and used it to rise up and overcome grief, depression, fear or anxiety. I noticed a common theme that Hoda uses to dictate how each denied the challenge from overcoming them. There was a distinct quality of life that each person demanded and desired that pushed him or her to keep moving forward.
For example, Lindsay was my age when her cancer reappeared a second time. She was very close to undergoing a procedure where she wouldn’t be able to talk ever again. Lindsay made the doctors figure out another way, because she wasn’t about to lose this ability in her twenties. Diane had a portion of her brain matter removed so she could care for her family and her family could live without fear of recurring seizures. Roxanne needed to move on from a simple life off the land and care for two babies. Each person rose above and beyond their dark place so they could live a quality life and provide the same for those close to them.
What steps do you take to stay positive?
I take a minute to close my eyes to say out loud the things I’m thankful for – beautiful weather, a roof over my head, my health, others you love me – you name it!