Dec. 7, 2010 -- Elizabeth Edwards, 61, died of cancer this morning at her home in North Carolina, according to media reports.
Yesterday, media reported that her condition had worsened and that she had posted a message on her Facebook page that included these lines: “I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces -- my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.”
Edwards' Breast Cancer
Edwards first noticed a lump in her breast in late October 2004 while showering in a Wisconsin hotel, on the road in support of her husband, John Edwards, in his vice presidential campaign.
Edwards got treated for her breast cancer in 2004-2005. First came chemotherapy to shrink the size of the tumor, followed by a lumpectomy (surgery to remove the tumor while saving as much of the breast as possible) and radiation therapy.
Edwards' breast cancer was in her bones, and perhaps also in her lungs and liver, though that wasn't certain at the time. In May 2009, Edwards told WebMD that the spot in the liver was "fairly inconsequential" and the spots in the lungs "turned out to be nothing."
Still, Edwards wrote in her 2009 memoir, Resilience, that her cancer "wasn't leaving. Not ever."
When cancer spreads to the bone, it's generally considered incurable but may be treatable.
When she talked to WebMD in 2009, Edwards said that to treat her stage IV breast cancer, she took a chemotherapy drug at home, another cancer drug intravenously every two weeks, and a third drug that helps protect the bones when cancer has spread to the bones.
Even so, Edwards didn't shy away from the fact that she could die of her cancer. And she voiced regret about not getting routine screening mammograms as often as recommended.
"I didn't get screened the way I should have," Edwards told WebMD in 2009. "As a result, I found out later than I could have" about the original cancer, Edwards added that not getting screened "does not change the reality. It only changes your options," as early diagnosis can make a difference in treatment.
But throughout her treatment, Edwards emphasized her life, not her risk of death.
She was passionate about her children and health care reform, and she said she didn't fear dying after living through the death of her first child, Wade, in a car accident in 1996, when Wade was 16.
Edwards is survived by her husband, John, her daughters, Cate and Emma Claire, and her son, Jack.