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Edwards Will Stay in Race Despite Wife's Cancer

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Edwards Will Stay in Race Despite Wife's Cancer

Election 2008

Edwards Will Stay in Race Despite Wife's Cancer

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Former Senator John Edwards said he will continue his presidential campaign even though his wife Elizabeth's cancer has come back. They held a press conference in North Carolina today to make the announcement. The Edwards say she has a form of the disease that's incurable and inoperable, but it is considered treatable.

NPR's Adam Hochberg reports from Chapel Hill.

ADAM HOCHBERG: Elizabeth Edwards had been declared cancer-free last year after several months of treatment for a tumor in her breast. But earlier this month, while moving furniture, she felt pain in her side. And in light of her experience with cancer, she suspected something had gone wrong.

Ms. ELIZABETH EDWARDS (Wife of John Edwards): Every time you get something suspicious you go into alarm mode. Every cancer survivor that you know personally has exactly that experience. Knowing that that pain they feel in their side, the ache they feel someplace could be the sign of something worse. This turned out to be.

HOCHBERG: The pain in her side was the result of a broken rib. But as doctors investigated that injury further they discovered her cancer had returned. Stage four breast cancer that spread to her bone and perhaps to her lung. The condition is not curable but is considered treatable. And Edwards says she's prepared to take medication the rest of her life.

Appearing with her husband today outside the same hotel that hosted their wedding reception 30 years ago, Mrs. Edwards said she feels no symptoms of disease.

Ms. EDWARDS: I mean, I don't look sickly. I don't feel sickly. There is a likelihood that some of the medications that I will be taking will at some times make me tired. So sometimes I'll step back to sort of regain my energy. But right now, I don't feel any of that.

HOCHBERG: Mrs. Edwards says she'll continue to accompany her husband as he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination. And both she and the former senator say the campaign will continue with few changes.

John Edwards says he and Elizabeth agreed his presidential quest is too important to give up.

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Yesterday afternoon we had a conversation about what this all means, and not shockingly to anyone who knows Elizabeth, all she wanted to talk about were about her children first, me, and the country.

HOCHBERG: The former senator downplayed questions about whether his wife's condition will detract from his ability to campaign. He said anybody who wants to be president should be able to deal with pressure and stay focused during difficult times.

Mr. EDWARDS: When this happens, you have a choice. You can go cower in the corner and hide, or you can be tough and go out there and stand up for what you believe in. And both of us are committed to the cause. We're committed to changing this country that we love so much. And we have no intention of cowering in the corner.

HOCHBERG: Mrs. Edwards' treatment protocol has not yet been determined, pending the outcome of more tests. Her doctor, University of North Carolina oncologist Lisa Carey says Edwards is generally healthy except for the cancer. But Carey says until therapy starts there's no way to predict how well she'll respond to it.

Dr. LISA CAREY (Oncology, University of North Carolina): This is a very variable thing. I don't have a crystal ball about how she's going to do. I can tell you that many patients with exactly the circumstances that she has do very well for a number of years. And the fact that she is a healthy person and that there isn't a lot of the cancer and that she doesn't have symptoms all work in her favor.

HOCHBERG: John Edwards said that immediately after today's news conference he and Elizabeth were leaving for a campaign trip to New York, Massachusetts and California. Polls among Democratic voters show him running behind senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the nomination, though he's running strong in the early caucus state of Iowa. Edwards said today he's given no serious thought to ending his campaign.

Adam Hochberg, NPR News, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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