This entry was written by Janine Guglielmino, LBBC’s Director of Information and Strategic Initiatives:
We received the sad news yesterday afternoon that Elizabeth Edwards had passed away from breast cancer. She was 61 years old.
Over the past day I have read many accounts of Mrs. Edwards’ life. Most focus on her career, her politics and her husband’s infidelities. But what I am most likely to remember is how Mrs. Edwards showed the world it was possible to lead a full life while coping with metastatic breast cancer.
When Mrs. Edwards presented at our Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer in 2009, I didn’t know what to expect. We had never spoken, and I had a number of preconceived notions about her. She disarmed me immediately. After a hug, she told me and other LBBC staff members about her busy week and plans to return to North Carolina in time to attend a function at her son’s school. Conference attendees ran up to embrace her. They compared experiences about treatments and side effects. Mrs. Edwards asked them questions and took notes.
Although she radiated warmth, once Mrs. Edwards got on stage she had a commanding presence. She shared the shock of her initial breast cancer diagnosis and her disappointment and fears after her recurrence. Her greatest challenge, she said, was helping her children cope. She wanted them to feel safe and secure despite the uncertainties of treatment and the future. Her method: to continue living her life as close to “normal” as possible. Speaking passionately about the need for healthcare reform, Mrs. Edwards laid out plans for educating providers about comprehensive and holistic care for people with ongoing illness, regardless of their financial circumstances. Although she was struggling with fatigue, Mrs. Edwards said, she had found ways to continue doing the things she loved and wanted to do.
The New York Times wrote this morning that Mrs. Edwards “carried her own bags and…her hair was full, her skin color was robust and she bustled with energy,” despite taking daily chemotherapy treatments. That such a depiction of life with metastatic breast cancer remains surprising enough to note shows just how far we still need to go in educating people about this disease. But by sharing her experiences with our attendees and millions of others, Mrs. Edwards helped us take the first steps.
With dignity, intellect and passion, Mrs. Edwards exemplified the potential of living a full and meaningful life while coping with advanced cancer. She put a public face on the women I see every day at Living Beyond Breast Cancer—amazing, inspiring women who continue working, playing and contributing to their communities, despite cancer and its treatments. It is for this legacy that I will remember her.
To view the Flickr photostream from LBBC’s 3rd Annual Conference for Women Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer featuring plenary speaker, Elizabeth Edwards, click here.
Breast cancer advocates discuss the impact of Elizabeth Edwards’ passing at San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).