Meredith Vieira juggles two popular television shows, kids, contractors -- and a husband who has MS.
In Sickness and in Health continued...
Laughter, too, is part of her healthy living strategy. "Humor has also
gotten us through some tough times," she says. "When Richard's cancer
came back, we were sitting in the kitchen around Thanksgiving time. Richard
asked the kids if they had any questions, and Gabe jokingly asked, 'Will I
still get my Christmas presents?'"
Jokes aside, she is not made of steel, or so Cohen writes in his bestselling
autobiography Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness. Calling her
the "glue" of the family, he writes, "Meredith has her emotional
threshold. The tears are tempered with strength, however. Meredith can be one
Vieira also makes time for prevention. Her hectic schedule can make it hard
to undergo the screening tests required for women in her age group, but "I
have nagging doctors, and they are really great."
She monitors her bone mass and takes a drug to boost bone health, as well as
daily supplements of calcium and vitamin D. "I am into weight
training," she says but admits that having mammograms or breast X-rays
takes some extra nudging, as she is fearful due to her family history.
Caregiving and family support
Being and staying the healthy parent in a family is not easy, points out
Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN, a research scientist specializing in caregiving at the
City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. "There is the emotional stress
of watching someone you love get weaker every day." The healthy partner
often needs emotional support, she says.
In the United States, more than 50 million people care for a chronically
ill, disabled, or aging family member or friend each year, according to the
National Family Caregivers Association in Kensington, Md.
But Vieira doesn't see herself as a caregiver in the classic sense of the
word. "It's a two-way street," she says. "When he needs support,
it's there -- just like when I need his support, it's there"
We Are Family
"We lean on each other as a family," she says, and "we have an
incredibly strong bond with a core group of people with whom I don't have to
say a lot. Yet they know when things are bad, when to hold my hand, when to
step away, and when to move in."
She only reluctantly sees herself as a caregiver, because Cohen is extremely
independent -- and not all that comfortable asking for help. "The hardest
thing is letting him do things on his own. If it were up to me, I would do
more," she says, "I worry when I see him stumbling, and when he tries
to cross streets and can't see what I see."
Cohen, however, looks at it this way: "Victim status embodies all that I
reject about the struggles of life. The challenge is to live and function well
under all circumstances, including those never anticipated, like