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Stronger Together

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

"It poses a challenge every day, but in ways, it has made us stronger," says Gabe. Learning to move at his father's pace and look out for obstacles, for example, "allows us to be more patient."

The couple put no pressure on the children to choose specific careers, says Ben, who works at a private equity firm but has an eye on running for office someday. His parents would be pleased if his passion led him into rewarding work, even if it was low paying, he says, though "if I said, 'I want to golf every day for the rest of my life and I don't want to do anything with it,' there'd be a moment of silence, and then my mother would hit me."

Having an empty nest is a big adjustment for the couple, the family agrees. Joked Lily shortly before she left to join Gabe at Northwestern: "They keep saying they're going to come to Chicago every week and visit us, which I'm hoping is an exaggeration." But Cohen and Vieira seem to be enjoying the transition to couplehood and are making a point of doing as much as they can together, while they can, in a life that holds no guarantees for anyone.

One clear summer day, Vieira drives Cohen and a reporter into the Cape Cod town of Wellfleet for a short tour that includes a visit to its new arts center in a restored church, Preservation Hall. The family has donated funds for an elevator in the two-story building, in honor of Cohen's parents.

Cohen wears blue jeans, a T-shirt bearing an ivory-billed woodpecker, and an electronic bracelike contraption that stimulates a nerve in his calf to help him walk without tripping. "It's a very useful device," he says. "It ought to be better known than it is."

Alighting from the passenger seat of the family's worn gray minivan, Cohen collects his cane, gains his balance, and begins to navigate toward the crosswalk that leads to the hall. Vieira walks alongside. It's a busy day, and there's plenty of traffic: The swoosh of cars passing nearly drowns out the sound of birds chittering in the trees.

At the curb, Cohen stops, then leans as if to start crossing. Vieira silently slips her hand onto her husband's, and they wait.

Features editor Margaret Guroff profiled Dr. Mehmet Oz in the May – June 2010 issue.

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