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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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Meredith Vieira juggles two popular television shows, kids, contractors -- and a husband who has MS.
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Living with MS continued...

It was Ben who at age 6 or 7 once candidly asked his mother whether he would end up like his father.

"I had to make a decision about whether to tell him [about his father's illness] or not, so I said, 'Let me tell you a little about what's going on with Dad. It's an illness, and there are ways to help it. It affects his legs and his eyesight, and there is no reason for you to think that you will end up like him.'

"Kids are so intuitive. The best thing is to be as upfront with them as possible," she says. "You want to protect them, but it's better to live in a certain reality. You want to level with your children, not scare them with the worst-case scenarios. When Richard got cancer we told them immediately. I am not big on sugarcoating things. We try to be honest about illness. I don't want the kids to see me or their dad as superhuman, or they will think they have to be."

Family Ties

But Ben's question does resonate, she says, since Cohen's father and grandmother both had MS. No firm evidence of a genetic link exists, but studies show that while the overall risk is relatively low, an individual's chances of developing MS increase several-fold if a close family member has it.

For example, the average person in the United States has about one chance in 750 of developing MS, and the risk for a person who has a parent with MS increases to one in 40, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

"I think about it, yeah,"she admits." But there is breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease in my family." For now, " my kids are healthy and happy. The MS I will worry about another day."

It helps that the Providence, R.I., native is a card-carrying optimist. When Vieira learned early in their courtship that Cohen had MS, it didn't faze her.

"Maybe I am a Pollyanna, or maybe I thought I could be an angel, but my feeling was never to run. And I don't blame people who do. I totally understand it," she says, admitting to days when she wishes the family could take a ski vacation or go on a hike.

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