Elizabeth Edwards, estranged wife of Sen. John Edwards, former Democratic vice presidential nominee and presidential candidate, died on Tuesday at age 61 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Edwards had been fighting cancer since 2004 when she discovered a lump in her breast while campaigning for her husband in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She was treated and went into remission. In March, 2007, while in the midst of another campaign, she announced that her cancer had returned, but that she would continue campaigning for her husband. The cancer, however, was diagnosed as stage IV metastic breast cancer, with spots in her rib and lung. Edwards later revealed that there was also a spot found in her hip. Treatment with anti-estrogen drugs was attempted.
The family announced yesterday that Elizabeth Edwards had decided to cease treatment after doctors said further treatment would be unproductive as the cancer had metastasized to her liver. She was told she had several weeks to live. Family members, including estranged husband John, were with her when she died.
Edwards became an activist for cancer patients and women’s health, and wrote two books. Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers focused on her illness and the death of her son Wade, who was killed in April 1996 at age 16 when he lost control of his Jeep; and Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, dealing with the scandal of her husband’s infidelity. When John Edwards publicly admitted in January of this year that he had fathered a child with another woman, the couple legally separated. Elizabeth was aware of the child’s existence beforehand, but John steadfastly denied the child was his.
Elizabeth Edwards met John when they were both students at the University of North Carolina and they married two years later. She juggled family life with her jobs as first a law clerk, and then a lawyer for private firms as well for the attorney general’s office. When son Wade died, she retired from law, and devoted herself to administering the Wade Edwards Foundation. She was an adjunct instructor on legal writing at the University of North Carolina’s law school, a substitute teacher in the Wake County Public Schools and in August 2009, she opened a furniture store in Chapel Hill.
Besides Wade, the Edwardses had three other children, two born after Wade’s death: Catharine, 28, Emma Claire, 12 and Jack, 10.
Sources: Reuters; Ms.Magazine; FoxNews; ABClocal