From 1987 to 2002, Mark McEwen was the face of CBS morning television. The warm, roly-poly McEwen, with his big moustache and bigger smile, made a perfect television weatherman. His sunny disposition and first-thing-in-the-morning cheer were nice to wake up to.
But two years ago, as he puts it, “there was a change in the weather.” While visiting family in Baltimore, the then-51-year-old McEwen suffered a minor stroke that was misdiagnosed as the flu. Two days later, flying back home to Orlando where he was anchoring the news for the local CBS affiliate, he suffered a massive stroke. It almost killed him. When his eyes fluttered open in what was then called Orlando Regional Sand Lake Hospital, he was unable to talk, swallow or move half of his body.
In his new book, “Change in the Weather: Life After Stroke” (written with Daniel Paisner and published on May 1st by Gotham Books), McEwen details the harrowing events surrounding his stroke as well as his inspiring, ongoing recovery. Though he sometimes tires quickly, his speech is still halting and his right hand shakes enough to interfere with his golf game, McEwen says he refuses to be defined by his stroke. He’s too busy living.
The Root caught up with him in Chicago recently as he kicked off the first leg of his book tour:
Before you had your stroke, how much did you know about the disease?
Zero, zilch—not a thing. The mother of my best friend had had a stroke, but she was an older woman. I felt bad for her, but it didn’t have anything to do with me.
You were pretty young for a stroke. Did you have any other risk factors?
Yes, I had high blood pressure that I was taking medication for. But I had no idea that it had anything to do with stroke. In fact, I didn’t think it was a big deal at all. I assumed everyone who worked in TV news had high blood pressure! Also, being a black man raised my risk. I now know that black people are twice as likely as Caucasians to have a first stroke.
What about your weight?