Watching John and Elizabeth Edwards talk about their battle with cancer (and I use the word "their" because this disease affects an entire family, not just an individual) was so poignant. I've had the pleasure of interviewing both John and Elizabeth on several occasions. I remember visiting them at their house in Georgetown -- which was lovely, but homey -- and being struck by their extraordinary ordinariness. I say that as a compliment. They are relaxed, unpretentious, and completely unaffected by their intelligence and accomplishments. Their appearance today was dominated by love and hope. Hope that the treatment would be effective, hope that the cancer would remain under control, hope that their lives could continue as normally as possible.
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
In her first interview after being diagnosed with cancer, she told me she was determined to do everything she could to try to beat it. She also said then that she knew there were no guarantees with cancer.
Having lost my husband and sister to cancer, I felt so much empathy for them. Of course, like so many watching, I immediately thought of their children, Cate, who is in her twenties and eight year old Emma Clare and six year old Jack. The fear of not being there for your children, of leaving them motherless is so deep and primal. Cancer treatment has come so far, but clearly not far enough. Patients are often able to live with various forms of the disease as if it were a chronic illness…as Elizabeth mentioned, like diabetes. But cancer can be a wily and unpredictable foe. A friend whose husband had colon cancer the same time mine did often described the omnipresent notion of it getting worse as "the sword of Damacles."
Yesterday, as we did a story on a brain surgeon fighting his own brain tumor, we mentioned that 4,000 people hear the three words "you have cancer" every single day in this country. So many more are fighting it and living with it. Watching the Edwards today made me think about all of them…and all the under-compensated and tireless researchers who have committed their lives to finding new, better treatments and possibly cures. It's a reminder for all of us. Take a moment today to think about those you know who are dealing with cancer. Better yet, call them to tell them you are thinking about them…and will support them in any way you can.
Take it from me, someone who's been there. It means so much.