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True View

Meredith Vieira juggles two popular television shows, kids, contractors -- and a husband who has MS.
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WebMD the Magazine - Feature

According to Meredith Vieira, who for nine years has famously shared a couch and her opinions on ABC's hit morning talk show The View, "any illness is a family illness. It is the other person in the room - a living, breathing [person] who is there with you. To ignore an illness is not healthy, particularly if it's chronic."

Vieira may trade quips and barbs on every subject from politics to pop culture with co-hosts Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Star Jones-Reynolds, but when it comes to coping with a serious medical condition she knows whereof she speaks: Her husband, Emmy Award-winning journalist Richard Cohen, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at age 25, before the couple met. In recent years, he has also survived two bouts of colon cancer.

Now married for nearly 20 years, with three children -- Ben, 16; Gabe, 14; and Lilly, 12 -- the couple continues to live on the rollercoaster of a life-changing illness.

Not that Vieira is complaining, far from it. The wife, mother, and caregiver happily holds not one job but two - she is also the Emmy Award winning host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. On-air and off, her attitude can only be described as upbeat.

One subject, however, will get her grousing: the recent renovation of her Westchester, N.Y., home. Let's just say being uprooted has caused her some stress. "This year I really feel I've aged because of stress," she says, referring to the hordes of contractors and workers who have invaded her tranquil property.

"I usually have a lot of energy, but the stress has made me feel more tired, and I can see how easy it is to fall into depression....It makes you not want to work out or take care of yourself."

Renovations aside, Vieira, 52, shows few other signs of strain. She is remarkably stoic about the difficulties of both supporting a chronically ill spouse and placating the fears of her children, who worry about their father and their own susceptibility to developing MS.

"Everybody has something, and this is our something," she tells WebMD. "If you are trying to live your life, you can't wallow in the negative. You just sort of have to live."

Living with MS

MS affects between 250,000 and 350,000 Americans, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke. Researchers believe it may be a progressive disease that happens when the body's immune system attacks nerves in the brain and the spinal cord.

While the cause is unknown, the most common symptoms are tingling, numbness, loss of balance, weakness in one or both arms or legs, and blurred or double vision.

Symptoms are unpredictable and tend to vary from person to person. While one individual may be extremely tired, another may have severe vision problems, yet another may have trouble with balance and muscle coordination, or slurred speech, tremors, stiffness, and bladder problems.

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