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Elizabeth Edwards: A Public Life, A Public Death

By Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger
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As a nation we have watched Elizabeth Edwards endure pain that no one should ever endure in their lifetime. Now, as a nation, we have learned she has died from breast cancer.

An attorney, mother, best-selling author and the estranged wife of a former U.S. Senator, she discovered a lump in her breast in the midst of a high profile campaign tour in 2004. She was open about her treatment and became an advocate for women and women’s health.

When the cancer returned, she held a press conference on March 22, 2007 and announced she would continue to support her husband in his campaign for the presidency. Doctors explained she had Stage IV cancer that had spread to her bones, and it was treatable, but not curable. At that point in time she was asymptomatic, meaning she was not feeling pain from the disease even though it had reached a point where it was starting a process that would kill her. Every detail of her cancer situation was shared with the public, no matter how delicate.

She already knew what it was to face hardship. In 1996 her 16-year-old son, Wade, died in a car accident, and she found that comfort came from family, friends, her religious beliefs and even strangers who knew her as a public figure. She wrote about this in a book published in 2006 titled, “Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers.”

While she chose to continue campaigning to support her husband, he chose to engage in infidelity and fathered a child outside of their marriage. His actions, which included false statements to the media, ignited an intense public spotlight and uproar in her life at a time when she needed to be using all her strength to fight cancer. She detailed her experiences in her next book, “Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities,” in a forthright and open manner.

On Dec. 6, 2010, at age 61, she said goodbye to us. The formal announcement was made in a statement given to the Associated Press and then shared through other media outlets. "Elizabeth has been advised by her doctors that further treatment of her cancer would be unproductive,” said the statement.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.