Thursday, January 24, 2008

How Would Cancer Affect Your Presidential Candidacy?

Did you see John Edwards on David Letterman the other night? He was in fine form, cheerful and upbeat. I couldn't help but wonder what was going on with Elizabeth and how she was holding up.In a heartbreaking discussion on Oprah last March, Elizabeth Edwards spoke about the cancer which has metastitized and spread to her ribs. She will have the cancer as long as she lives, she said. Yet her husband John has continued his presidential candidacy, with Elizabeth fully supporting him. Elizabeth told the public that her expectations about the future were unchanged.

"I expect to do next week all the things I did last week. And the week after that, and next year at the same time," she said at the time.

It's true, as Elizabeth said, that many people go on with their lives after a diagnosis of terminal cancer. They do go on teaching, parenting, going to work. But to have your most significant "other" so involved in such a time-consuming endeavor! It made me wonder what I would do--first of all if I were the one with a terminal illness, and second if I were the partner of such a one.

In Saving Graces, the book she wrote about the life trials she has overcome, Elizabeth's advice to others was, "Live until you die, however long that is, and that's my advice to people who are facing this diagnosis and to everybody else listening to it: Live until you die." But how will we live? If it was me, I think I would be a little bit selfish. I would use those moments left to me to do the things I always wanted to do but never had time for. Before I leave this world, I would want to see Italy and the art there. I would want to drink hot chocolate in a chalet after skiing the Alps. And then I'd spend as much time as I could with my loved ones. I would play many hands of pinochle with my mom and dad. I'd walk on the beach and collect seashells with my children. I'd discuss books, life, and religion with my friends. But especially I'd want my husband to be at my side. I have to be honest, I would want him to put his career on hold for a while. Spend more time with me. Would I want to see my husband debating on TV and joking around with David Letterman? Not so much. I don't think even that a triumph on inauguration day could make up for all the time away.

Elizabeth Edwards has made a different choice, and I admire her for a brave woman. I wish she could know that while John had his moment in front of the camera I was thinking of her.


jana said...

What a tender post.

Having stared death in the face, I can tell you that it's hard to go on living when your body is betraying you. What Elizabeth says is brave and true. Though we might all think that we'd travel the world if we only knew we had a few days left, I suspect it's the mundanity of our lives that we will miss the most when we are on the other side.

When I was too ill to even get out of bed (during my own cancer bout), what I missed most was washing the dishes. And I absolutely hate dishwashing. Crazy, isn't it?

Bored in Vernal said...

Jana, I appreciate your perspective. I never thought of it that way. But today I'll probably cherish my time doing the dishes and laundry. Thanks to you.

brooke said...

hey -
just wanted to put a voice in here as well -> 3 years ago my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. in fact the doctors at duke medical center gave him 2 years to live, but he's still very much alive and kicking very hard today. (he doesn't see those docs, he goes to memorial sloan kettering) in talking to him and my step mother about it, rather than referring to the cancer as terminal - because it will kill him - it's chronic. this is a chronic illness that my father is learning to live with. my stepmother still works, still got her accupuncture certification, etc.. if she was in the middle of a presidential campaign i know dad would have encouraged her to continue to do so. i have a feeling this is the same as elizabeth edwards situation.. rather than terminal, it's chronic. as someone with a chronic illness myself, that nearly killed me 6 years ago, i can tell you it does put added challenges in life, but as you learn to live with it, it simply becomes a part of every day life.

claire said...

Thanks for sharing this BiV. I love John and Elizabeth Edwards.

LCM said...

My views were pretty focused to begin with, but when my sweet 4 year old Fiona was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, our focus on our family became even more so. We take our girls out of school to go on family trips, we go places together and make memories and have family experiences. I think John Edwards lost a lot of credibility when he chose to continue, even though he knew his wife's days were numbered. I think his time would've been better spent with his wife and young children.