"He went into himself like I've never seen," recalls Vieira. "I think he was a much angrier man. That second surgery carried with it a lot of stuff afterwards, the recovery period. He had to have a bag … He felt humiliated."
"Meredith finally said, you're becoming a monster,' " remembers Cohen.
The children also made it clear how they felt and it wasn't pretty. Ben told his father he wanted to kick him and get away from him. "And it was like getting hit with a baseball bat in the solarplexes," he says. But I really did take it to heart."
Cohen went into remission again but he says this time he changed for the better. He became more active, attending events, lecturing to journalism students at Columbia University, working for the MS Society and writing very personal articles in the New York Times about coping with MS and cancer.
Vieira and Cohen say that even after so many hardships, their marriage remains solid. They say their ability to look at things with a sense of humor keeps them grounded. "Humor's essential, she says. "Even at the worst, right after the second colon cancer, we always found something to laugh about. I would kid him about. While you were in the hospital, I did purchase a black dress, just in case … We just made jokes. And we still do. It's what gets you through."
Vieira says the toughest part of her husband's illness is not knowing what's next. "That's pretty tough," she says. "It's kind of a rotten deal, a lot of it. And then to have colon cancer twice. He's a pain in the neck," she laughs.
For the Cohens illness is "a family affair." But Meredith says that her husband's grace and humor in the face of adversity has taught their children profound lessons about life. "Well, I think that he's the greatest teacher they'll ever have," she marvels. "If they don't already know it, they will. He's teaching them compassion and strength and dignity, bravery."