Richard Cohen was 25 when he diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He continued in his career as a news producer, covering war zones in Beirut and El Salvador. He then dealt with colon cancer-twice. Cohen's book about his experiences is called Blindsided, and he says that cancer is real practice for growing old.
Ninety million Americans suffer from chronic illnesses, and 70% of people over 65 deal with at least one chronic illness. Cohen says that in light of a culture that is obsessed with physical perfection, "We've got to come to grips with our human frailties."
Cohen speaks frankly about the role of denial in his life. "Denial is misunderstood," he says. Selective denial can help keep us from overload in dealing with grave issues and help us move forward through something. Once a doctor told Cohen in front of a group of medical students that he was in denial. He retorted, "I deny that."
Married to Meredith Viera, with whom he has three children, Cohen acknowledges his anger. He admits he gets angry at his limitations, and angry at the situation. "To me, anger is fuel." But it's important not to take it out on the wrong people, and "It's important not to become a professional victim."
"There are no medals for coping," Cohen admits.