Elizabeth Edwards Loses Long Battle With Cancer
Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, died Tuesday morning after a six-year battle with breast cancer. She was 61.
She was at her Chapel Hill home, surrounded by family and friends — including John Edwards — who had gathered in recent days after doctors informed her that her cancer had spread and recommended that she not undergo further treatment.
“Today we have lost the comfort of Elizabeth’s presence, but she remains the heart of this family,” the Edwards family said in a statement. “We love her and will never know anyone more inspiring or full of life. On behalf of Elizabeth, we want to express our gratitude to the thousands of kindred spirits who moved and inspired her along the way. Your support and prayers touched our entire family.”
The career of her husband, who grew up in Robbins, put her in the spotlight as a smart, plain-spoken wife who was a key adviser to his political campaigns. She later became a figure of sympathy as she battled breast cancer and dealt with her husband’s infidelity.
Elizabeth Edwards posted a message Monday on her Facebook page after the decision was made not to have any more treatment for her cancer.
“I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends and a faith in the power of resilience and hope,” she wrote. “These graces have carried me through difficult times, and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.”
Edwards was first diagnosed with cancer 12 days before the 2004 election when she discovered a lump in her breast during a presidential campaign trip. Her husband, then North Carolina’s junior U.S. senator, was Sen. John Kerry’s vice-presidential running mate. The couple did not disclose her illness until after the election.
She began treatment soon after Kerry and Edwards conceded the election and spent much of 2005 undergoing chemotherapy and radiation after surgery. The cancer went into remission, but it resurfaced in early 2007, as John Edwards was mounting a second bid for the White House. The Edwardses agreed at the time that they would not allow the cancer to derail his candidacy.
The cancer had spread to her bones by 2007, and her doctors said at that time that it was no longer curable but could be treated.
The Edwardses separated earlier this year after he acknowledged fathering a child with his mistress, Reille Hunter, a former campaign videographer. They had been married 30 years.
He had moved back home to help care for Elizabeth and their two young children — Emma Claire, 12, and Jack, 10. Their older daughter, Cate, is a lawyer who lives in Washington, D.C. Son Wade died in a vehicle accident in 1996.
Elizabeth Edwards wrote two books about how she had overcome adversity in her life, “Resilience” and “Saving Graces.” She became a passionate spokeswoman for health care access during her husband’s second presidential campaign. After he dropped out of the race, she disappeared from the limelight.
Her husband’s sex scandal, an investigation into campaign finance violations during his presidential run and the second memoir occasionally brought Elizabeth Edwards into the public eye in the past two years.
In recent months, she returned to the unassuming life she had led before her family rocketed onto the political scene in 1998, when John Edwards won election to the U.S. Senate.
She opened a furniture store in Chapel Hill. She took Jack and Emma Claire to UNC basketball games and shopping at Target.
“I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious,” she said in her Facebook message. “And for that I am grateful.”
Part of the material for this report came from The News & Observer of Raleigh.
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