For those in their mid-twenties, illness can be an abstraction. Youth can come with a sense of invincibility. When Richard M. Cohen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at 25, he was shocked and unsure of a way forward. His father had the disease, but he did not worry about his own health. At the time of his diagnosis, Richard was in his early years as a journalist, covering urgent stories such as Watergate.
Richard’s MS diagnosis did not slow him down. MS is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves, resulting in the disruption of electrical impulses to and from the brain. MS is an unpredictable disease that can bring on paralyzing fear, but Richard channeled his fear into action. Richard went on to a twenty–five–year career in network television news, working for ABC News, CBS and PBS alongside veteran journalists such as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Ted Koppel.
At CBS News, Cohen covered the rise of the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland and wars in the Middle East and Central America. Cohen specialized in politics, directing presidential campaign coverage for CBS News in 1984 and 1988. In 1989, Cohen produced and directed “Illusions of News” with Bill Moyers for PBS and in 1992, “Bill Clinton of Arkansas” for CNN. Cohen has been the recipient of numerous awards in journalism, including three Emmy® Awards, a George Foster Peabody and a Cable Ace Award. He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, “Blindsided,” published in 2004, and “Strong at the Broken Places,” in 2008. His book, “I Want to Kill the Dog,” was published in 2012. His newest book, “Chasing Hope,” will be published in May, 2018.
Richard has battled colon cancer twice and survived a life– threatening blood clot in his lungs. Cohen is legally blind from MS’s assault on his optic nerves and suffers diminished strength and balance. But he maintains a sense of humor and grace, despite the challenges. With his wife, Meredith Vieira, celebrated journalist and talk show host, Richard participated in the 2013 Vatican Conference. “Attending changed my life,” he later said. Cohen learned about various cell-based therapies and participated in a stem cell clinical trial in New York when he returned. “My illness seems less threatening now,” Cohen said.
Richard M. Cohen recognizes the gravity of his MS but refuses to allow it to limit his life. He embodies the spirit of all the Pontifical Heroes, who rise to meet adversity and use it as a force for change. Cohen stays hopeful for a cure, if not for him, then for future generations.