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Meredith Vieira and Richard M. Cohen thrive as parents and partners while managing his chronic disease

Without the daily grind of morning news, which had her — and, therefore, Cohen — waking every weekday morning at 2:30 a.m., the couple were able to spend time with their kids at the Cape Cod cottage, which they bought because it's next door to one that Cohen's mother owns. Cohen and Vieira also traveled to China with Ben to help him move into his new apartment.

And Vieira contemplated leaving television completely. While at the beach, she says, "I thought I'd have a eureka moment. I really did. I thought I'd suddenly go, 'Oh, I know what I want to be!' And I didn't. I didn't come close." So she signed another yearlong contract with NBC, giving her time to ponder her next move. "I'm great at procrastinating," she jokes.

The job calls for Vieira to report four news pieces within the year, and she'll also cover the 2012 Olympics for the network. Along with Millionaire and a film production company she owns, she'll be busy, but she also looks forward to having more time to travel with her husband. Vieira's childhood friend, author Priscilla Warner, finds the plan "romantic." "How many people our age would say, 'I'm going to leave and spend a lot of time with my spouse'?" she asks. "You don't give up a very glamorous, stimulating, exciting job to spend time with a spouse unless you have a glamorous, stimulating, exciting spouse. They both look at each other that way."

When Cohen and Vieira married, they both knew they wanted children. "It came close to our reason for being together," Cohen has written. As a third-generation MS patient, Cohen worried he might pass the poorly understood disease to his children, but doctors at the time assured him that MS was not hereditary. Today, that thinking has changed; an international consortium of researchers recently identified 57 genes thought to play a role in MS (environment is also believed to contribute). Still, while children of MS patients do have a higher risk of developing the disease, only about 3.5 percent ever do. So far, Cohen's kids are unaffected.

With one child launched now and the other two in countdown mode, the couple seem to have done admirably well as parents. All three kids are gracious and self-possessed, as well as quick and clever. And although no one in the family considers Cohen's illness a blessing, all say the experience of growing up around chronic illness has helped the children mature and develop a sense of empathy.

Next: Empty nesters. >>

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