Unexpected Blessings: Stories of Hope and Healing by Roxanne Black

Roxanne 9-13

About the Author: Roxanne Black

Roxanne Black, founder and executive director of Friends’ Health Connection, was diagnosed with lupus at 15. Feeling alone and cut off by her disease, during her freshman year at Rutgers, Roxanne envisioned a support service that would connect people of similar ages with similar health problems. After appearing on CNN and other news outlets to discuss her dream, Roxanne, from her hospital room where she was surrounded by dialysis equipment, extracted patient stories from the thousands of letters she received. She’d write key criteria on index cards, and, with volunteers, hand match patients.  Soon, a woman with cystic fibrosis bonded with another woman with the same disease a thousand miles away.  Two men with similar brain tumors were talking weekly on the phone. This network would become Friends’ Health Connection, now an internationally recognized organization that has touched thousands. Roxanne received several honors for her efforts, including being appointed the 268th Daily Point of Light by President George Bush and named one of the top eighteen college students in the nation by USA Today. Her book recounting her lupus and life journey, Unexpected Blessings: Stories of Hope and Healing, was first published in 2008.



The CJ WRAP: Roxanne Black

Press the CJ Wrap Buttontohear a short news report produced by CJ Chief Correspondent Stacey Cahn of her interview of Roxanne Black.  Need to keep the sound down? You can simply read the accompanying script. wrap














CJ Book Review

Unexpected Blessings: Stories of Hope and Healing, Avery, 2008, by Roxanne Black

When Roxanne Black fell ill at the age of 15, no one could figure out what was causing her strange, overwhelming symptoms—the swollen ankles, severe back and chest pain and rash, all of  which kept her out of school and secluded at home, watching life pass her by from the living room window.  Maybe it was an infection, doctors said; but then the symptoms vanished for a few days, only to return with renewed force.

When she was finally diagnosed with systemic lupus, the inflammatory disease was much rarer and misunderstood than it is today.   As terrifying as the physical symptoms, the loneliness and isolation were just as difficult.  Black yearned to connect with others who knew first-hand what she was experiencing.  And so she formed a support group to bring patients across the country together.  That group has since become Friends’ Health Connection, a nationwide community that matches thousands of people with similar conditions—from cancer and  lupus to paralysis and chronic pain, and more.

In her inspiring and beautifully written book, Unexpected Blessings, Black chronicles her transformation from a lonely, scared, seriously ill teenager to the head of this highly influential organization. She doesn’t mask the hard realities of her condition –dialysis and two kidney transplants, among them– but in the midst of these, she manages to affirmthe power of love, friendship and the adaptability of the human spirit.

One of my favorite passages reads:  “Those of us who face illness remember the before and after moments: The day the phone rang, or the doctor walked into your hospital room, and it was clear that life as you had known it was about to change. You discover that you have cancer or multiple sclerosis, or that your loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic disease.

You hang up the phone or walk out of the hospital feeling as if your world has been transformed.  It’s not simply fear that makes you so disoriented – it’s because you are in the midst of experiencing a true glimpse of the great preciousness and precariousness of life.”

The book brings to life not just her personal story, but also the lessons of courage she’s learned from all the famous and not-so-famous people she’s met.  From her encounter with Christopher Reeve to her intimate experiences  with everyday patients who adapt and persevere in the face of extraordinary challenges.

Endorsed by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Deepak Chopra, this book, first published in 2008, remains as fresh and true as when it was first written.  Unexpected Blessings offers support and encouragement for anyone touched by illness or facing a difficult time in their life.

Reviewed by Lynn Lauber


Praise for Unexpected Blessings

“Life happened to Roxanne while she was busy making plans. Her heart felt experience reminds us of the sacred experiences we all share.”
                   Mehmet Oz, M.D.
                   Coauthor of You: The Owner’s Manual

“With wisdom and grace, Roxanne Black shows us that we can find laughter amid tears, and a sense of deep optimism in spite of our struggles and pain.  UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS is deeply moving.”
Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Author of The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore

“Roxanne Black is a dream of a writer – right up there with Anne Lamott.  UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS is full of light, humor, and soul. It is not just helpful for those facing illness, it is a great read!”
— Christiane Northrup, M.D.
                    Author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

“Unexpected Blessings is just that…a blessing.  In this heartwarming, informative and insightful book, Roxanne Black shares what happens when your body betrays you and how you can recapture your life through the gifts of others and your own determination.  As she learns to love her body, protect it, and rely on it…we learn something too…about grace.”                                 Nancy. L. Snyderman, M.D.
Chief Medical Editor, NBC News

“UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS describes the heroic journey of an extraordinary woman, who has turned her experience with chronic illness into a vehicle for healing others.  Throughout history the  ‘wounded healer’ has been the most effective healer, and  Roxanne Black is one of the greatest examples of a wounded healer I know.  Anyone will be uplifted by her message of hope, courage, and renewal.”
                   Larry Dossey, MD
Author of Healing Words

Roxanne has learned, no doubt the hard way, that some of us inherit the arduous task of paving the road and leveling the bumps for others.  Citizens of sickness seek community.  She understands.  This young woman’s journey offers us a roadmap, for which I am grateful.
Richard M. Cohen
                   Author of Blindsided

“I have known and worked with Roxanne Black for many years. She is a true survivor and has been one of my teachers and someone I truly admire. Her attitude and will to live are contagious.  I feel her desire to help others who are wounded reveals how important our relationships and connections are to our survival. In love’s service only the wounded soldier can serve. Read this inspiring book and let it guide you in your life and surviving your difficulties.”
Bernie Siegel, MD
                  Author of Love, Medicine and Miracles  


To purchase Roxanne’s book, visit her website: www.roxanneblack.com

For more on Roxanne’s organization: www.friendshealthconnection.org