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by Joe Treen, AARP The Magazine, January/February 2009 issue
Richard M. Cohen can pinpoint the moment he went from retired television news producer with multiple sclerosis to advocate for the chronically ill. It was in 2004, and he was giving a talk at his local library about his bestselling memoir, Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness. Some 250 people—five times more than expected—showed up, and soon began swapping stories. “I thought, ‘Someone ought to write a book telling other people’s stories.’” So he did. Strong at the Broken Places: Voices of Illness, A Chorus of Hope was quickly followed by a pioneering radio program on WABC in New York that deals with chronic illnesses. Cohen, 60, discovered he had MS—his father and grandmother had it, too—in 1973. For the next two decades he refused to let the illness slow him down, covering wars and national politics as a CBS producer, and marrying Meredith Vieira, now cohost of NBC’s Today show, with whom he has three children. But by 1996 his disabilities were so severe he could no longer work in television. Today he devotes his time to being a voice for the millions with an incurable disease. “Everybody is touched by chronic illness,” he says. “It’s the flood under the door.”
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