Why I’m crying (Elizabeth Edwards died today)

December 7th, 2010 § 5 comments

I didn’t know Elizabeth Edwards. In fact, I wrote a piece critical of her when she initially stood by John after his affair. I was disappointed when she gave an interview on CNN in May of 2009 and spoke only of John’s “imperfection” rather than calling him the cheater he was and kicking him to the curb. I was angry she hadn’t used her interview time to talk about herself, her cancer, her life: the topics I wanted to hear about. I was angry at her for not claiming her remaining years of life as her own.

So why am I sitting with tears in my eyes because she has died?

I cry because it makes me feel vulnerable and scared of what this disease can do to me: what it did to her.

Yes, I know… there are plenty of men and women who get cancer, have treatment, and stay in remission for the rest of their lives. And, in essence, isn’t that what every cancer patient hopes for, as Betty Rollins wrote, “to die of something else”?

I don’t think it makes me pessimistic, depressing, or negative to think that I am vulnerable.

It’s the truth. It’s my truth.

Anyone who hasn’t been to the oncologist with me to see my risk-of-recurrence charts, my mortality charts, my decision-making discussions along the way can’t say to me “Oh, don’t worry, that won’t be you.” No one, including me, knows how it will go.

People tell me: stay strong, just think positive, you can’t generalize from her situation.

I respond: I am strong, I hope for the best. I don’t think positive thinking is going to save me if there are remaining cancer cells still in me.

I hope that people won’t say to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, “Don’t worry, what happened to Elizabeth Edwards won’t happen to you.” Because while we do everything we can to ensure we die of something else, it just isn’t always the case. In 2006 her oncologist told her that there were many things going on in her life, “but cancer was not one of them.”1 Things change quickly, cancer can recur when you least expect it.

I have sympathy for her family. I cry for her children. I am saddened about the years she spent with a man who didn’t deserve her. I am angry about the time she wasted on him. I hoped she would be an example of someone who would keep cancer at bay.

I grieve for that hope, now gone.

  1. http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2006/11/20/144410/37/59#c59 []

Tagged , , ,

§ 5 Responses to Why I’m crying (Elizabeth Edwards died today)"

  • Ann Gregory says:

    It’s so hard to verbalize the miasma of emotions that we become saddled with after being diagnosed with cancer. With bone marrow transplants and leukemia, a minimal residual disease test is performed with each bone marrow biopsy. One tiny cell can trigger the event all over again, and they are gifted at hiding for years. We are always vigilant and I dare say worried; all we can do is move forward in what ever capacity we can. You advocate and mentor and show how this dance should be choreographed.

  • Jenna says:

    Lisa, I just want to send some hugs your way.

    Please kick cancer’s ass forever.

  • Life doesn’t make sense sometimes – we did not know her whole story. All we can do is appreciate what life we do have. My dad tells me every day that we never know when it will be our last. He just sent me an email yesterday saying that he was so happy his meetings were cancelled, because he could get to see my brother’s play in their basketball games. He said that it’s moments like these that make life worth living. He is my example on how I want to lead my life. I took solace in her last public words, saying she’s gotten through difficult times “by three saving graces—my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.” I hope you can find comfort in them as well.

  • Galit Breen says:

    thank you. thank you for your honesty & candor. thank you for the tears. and thank you for the reminder of so-very-much: perspective, value and how much power words have. i’m sending you all of the good that i’ve got.

  • amy Oscar says:

    I’m with Brenna on this one. I have not had cancer. My mom has though. At 72. They caught it early, she had a lumpectomy and radiation, It never came back. Lucky. But other things came: Emphysema, a heart aneurysm, a broken leg, and now, one infection after another. Here’s how I see her situation, and mine. She is going to die. Me, too.

    This post made me want to hug you, to reassure you. But I can’t. Like you, I’m a realist. Where you and I differ, perhaps, is that I don’t spend much time thinking about cancer. (And of course, that’s because I haven’t HAD to. I haven’t faced what you’ve faced.)

    Still, like most women today, I live my life with one eye on the reports and I do what I can to stay healthy and strong, believing a strong constitution is my best defense. I avoid sugar, because I’ve read that ‘cancer loves sugar.” I avoid chemical additives for the same reason and try to eat organic food. I watch my intake of fat because I’m told that toxins collect in fat cells.

    Right now, I’m trying to live my life fully. That’s my response to the threat of whatever end awaits me. When I get there, I want to go knowing I gave it all I had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What's this?

You are currently reading Why I’m crying (Elizabeth Edwards died today) at Lisa Bonchek Adams.