Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Emmy-winning sportscaster writes his wife's (and his) comeback story

If we have our way, this powerful story -- it will knock you on your back -- will be in a follow-up effort to our "Extraordinary Comebacks". We work on these all the time, and this one is slated for volume 2, chapter 168.

The life and love story of the Kings, Maggie and Rich:

You see members of your TV news teams every day. They come into your home, like family or friends. You think you know them (you don't), and that their lives are pretty charmed (sometimes), and breezy and effortless and glib as the jokes at the end of the late night itself (not for sportscaster Rich King or his Maggie).
Behind the video image, Rich King's wife Maggie was engaged for years in a titanic struggle against blindness, and hearing loss, and all that entailed, as as a result, so, too, was he. When breast cancer, then ovarian cancer joined the battle, it was nothing less than a life and death struggle.

In his book, My Maggie, Rich recounts the story, and it will knock you flat on your back.

The story starts plainly enough. Maggie and Rich met a neighbor children in Pilsen, near West Side Chicago neighborhood. Awkward and gangly, Maggie wore hearing aids, starting age 4. While in third grade, she told friends she would marry Rich. He was nonplussed until high school, then he fell hard for her. By this time, Maggie had developed night blindness as well, but it didn't dissuade Rich. He loved her, all of her. Both afflictions would get worse.

Despite her hardships, Maggie got through high school and enrolled in Eastern Illinois University, but her poor vision brought her closer to home; sheattended University of Illinois at Chicago for a time with Rich, then found her way to a practical nursing program at a South Side Chicago hospital, then put in two more years to become a registered nurse at St. Mary of Nazareth hospital. Meanwhile, Rich finished off his broadcasting studies at UIC, and landed a job with CBS. He would stay for 20 years.

Despite her impaired vision and slowly declining hearing, Maggie, too, was able to work in her profession for 20 years. It would be their golden age -- stone crazy in love, with lots of trips, friends, dining and shopping adventures. With Maggie's health problems, no, they didn't "have it all," but they had a lot, and in the category of romantic love, more than most will ever have, or even come in contact with.

But then life turned unspeakably cruel. Maggie's sight declined rapidly, and her hearing followed suit. It was at this time, in her 40s, that it was determined that she suffered from Usher's syndrome, an exceedingly rare malady that attacks both sight and hearing, condeming the victim to a netherworld devoice of sight and sound.
Maggie and Rich were devastated, but amazingly Maggie determined to fight back. After a kick start from a brusque, loud, well-meaning and effective counselor (himself blind), Maggie was injected with the hope that she could get on top of her blindness and not allow it to rule and crush her life.

Indeed, she was so inspired she herself determined to switch careers and become a counselor to the blind. Maggie traveled -- by herself, assisted only by her cane -- to attend a seminar at the Helen Keller Institute, Long Island, N.Y., then enrolled in a two-year program to earn her degree in social work at Chicago's Loyola University.

An extraordinary comeback in the face of debilitating setback.
Fate was not through with Maggie, however. Breast cancer piled on, then ovarian cancer. Tragically, the latter metatasized, and could not be overcome.

Buoyed by her husband Rich and best friend Arlana, Maggie kept her love of life and fighting spirit intact all the way to her last breath.

In the book, gutsy Maggie becomes our heroine, yes, but Rich, too, becomes our hero, too, in baring his soul as the author. His recounting of My Maggie is not a sugar-coated idyll by any means, (he is plain spoken about her flaws and his), but a book of grit and stubble and devastation and overcoming and an ultimate triumph in the spirit realm, if not the physical. We all succumb, sooner or later, to that last one.

Someone once said of "Extraordinary Comebacks" volume one that when you're feeling down, 'read a few of these stories to see what's possible.' My Maggie is the nonpareil story in that regard. No one, and we mean no one we've encountered in these researches, does more with less than the extraordinarily courageous, indomitable Maggie King. As a counselor, Maggie had the power to change lives, and now that Rcih has captured her essence in this biography, she will keep on doing that for many years to come.

As Rich King would say simply, she would like that.