I'd taken my daughters away for weekend. But before we took off, I called the office to find out if CBS would be interested in an interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards. When I landed, there was a voice mail from Jeff Fager, the Executive Producer of "60 Minutes," asking if I could go to Las Vegas the next morning for the interview.
I'd interviewed Elizabeth two and a half years ago, when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had been impressed ( as I've written before) by her strength, and no-nonsense unpretentiousness.
I also felt that I have an inherent understanding of the physical and emotional toll that cancer takes on a family, given that I have lost both my husband and my sister to this disease.
Flying on the plane to Las Vegas, I was surprised at the repercussions of the Edwards' decision-–the ripple effect that had caused so many conversations among so many people about family, love, commitment, responsibility, priorities, mortality. In other words, the real stuff that transcends politics.
I was also surprised to read an article in the New York Times about how people viewed this story through their own personal prisms – some in a negative way. I really used some of those voices as a framework for my questions. I knew that everyone was reacting differently to this, and I wanted the Edwards to have a chance to elaborate and respond to issues people were raising. When the interview was over, the biggest complement came from Senator Edwards, who thanked me and said: "You asked all the questions that were out there." I think they appreciated having an opportunity to respond.
I found them both in really good spirits, but clearly completely sanguine about the prognosis. I understood exactly what they were talking about when they recounted the story of looking at the bone scan and seeing the so-called "hot" spots. I understood the pacing, the anxiety, the willing it to go away. The anguish and fear that the worst would happen.
In some ways, I feel it's their decision and no one else's. But their eyes are wide open when it comes to the ramifications of their choice. They understand that some people will feel more comfortable than others as they continue their campaign.
But they also feel very strongly about service to their country. They were united, resolute, and clearly after 30 years of marriage, very much in love. No matter where you stand politically, you can see that they are, at their essence, two people dealing with a tough situation in the way that is right for them.
I know from personal experience that maintaining a sense of normalcy is very important for dealing with a life-threatening disease. I think for John and Elizabeth Edwards, serving their country is their "normal." I get the sense that stepping away from politics, and the opportunities it offers, would just feel wrong to them.