News

Edwards' presidential campaign goes on despite wife's cancer

Ryan Teague Beckwith and J. Andrew Curliss
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

(Travis Long/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, said Thursday that she has suffered a recurrence of cancer but that the two will continue his campaign.

The cancer was discovered this week in a right rib bone after Elizabeth Edwards received an X-ray for an injury that occurred after she was moving a chest in her house.

John Edwards said the cancer is "no longer curable." But he added, "It is completely treatable." He described it as a chronic condition like diabetes.

The couple said they will continue campaigning, though she said she will be undergoing chemotherapy and will face treatment for the rest of her life.

"I expect to do next week all the things I did last week," said Elizabeth Edwards, 57. "I do not expect my life to be significantly different."

Elizabeth Edwards was treated for breast cancer diagnosed in 2004. Thursday's news indicates that cancer cells have lodged in the rib bone. But she said she was asymptomatic and felt well.

She said she hadn't considered asking her husband to withdraw from the campaign. "It's unbelievably important that we get this election right," she said.

John Edwards said, "The campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly."

"Basically we've been confronted with these kinds of traumas and struggles already in our life, and we know from our previous experience we have a choice," he said. "You can cower in the corner and hide or you can go out there and be tough and stand up for what you believe in. ... We have no intention of cowering in the corner, none whatever."

The two appeared together at a crowded news conference at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, where they had their wedding reception 30 years ago.

Elizabeth Edwards said that about a week ago she was moving the chest and felt pain. Later, when John Edwards gave her a hug, they heard a pop.

Elizabeth Edwards went to see a doctor Monday about the fracture. X-rays indicated a suspicious shadow, and on Wednesday she went in for a followup. That's when doctors revealed that there had been a recurrence of cancer.

The couple said they had waited a day to announce the development so they could talk to their family, including their parents and their three children.

As a couple, the Edwardses have been in the national spotlight since the 2004 presidential campaign, when Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry and Edwards, his running mate, lost their bid for the White House to the Bush-Cheney ticket.

Days after the `04 election, the Edwardses disclosed that Elizabeth had breast cancer. She had learned about it in the final days of the campaign.

Later, Elizabeth Edwards wrote a book, "Saving Graces," about losing their 16-year-old son, Wade, in a 1996 car accident, and her treatment for the advanced breast cancer. She toured the nation, including an appearance on Oprah Winfrey's popular daytime show.

As John Edwards considered a bid for the presidency in 2008, he had said he would not run if something happened to Elizabeth.

In August, John Edwards told McClatchy Newspapers that "something happening to Elizabeth" would stop him from running.

In October, Elizabeth Edwards told Time magazine that a factor in her husband's candidacy was her health.

"He said that if the cancer recurred - we actually had a scare this fall that turned out not to be anything - he would do what he did before, and draw himself into making me better."

John Edwards rose to political prominence after years as a successful trial lawyer in Raleigh. He left his practice to become a U.S. senator and, later, his party's nominee for vice president.

After the 2004 defeat, John Edwards headed a center on poverty at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The couple built a home on 100 acres in Chapel Hill and sold homes in Washington and Raleigh.

All along, Edwards has crisscrossed the country and globe, readying for the next election. He has been widely seen as a top-tier candidate for the Democratic nomination, along with Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

In her book last year, Edwards wrote in detail about the cancer.

She wrote that she first discovered a large lump while campaigning in Wisconsin 12 days before Election Day in 2004. But it was not until a visit home to Raleigh, a week later, that she had a chance to visit her doctor and get tests. She then told her husband that she probably had breast cancer.

She recalls talking with her husband about whether they should stop campaigning - a move that was rejected when a doctor said a couple of days' delay in treatment would not matter.

Although the cancer was kept private until after the campaign, Edwards told Kerry about it then. After Kerry's concession speech in Boston, the Edwardses were driven directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where a biopsy provided a definite diagnosis. A week later, Edwards began chemotherapy in Washington.

Edwards said in her book that her husband was constantly at her side when she was undergoing treatment.


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