WASHINGTON - Elizabeth Edwards, stoic as her husband’s presidential ambitions collapsed, her marriage crumbled and cancer sapped her strength, thanked her supporters online Monday as word spread the disease may take her life within weeks.
“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered,” Edwards wrote on her Facebook page. “We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”
The Edwards family issued a statement that said doctors have told Edwards that further treatment for her cancer would be unproductive. And a family friend who is among those who have gathered with Edwards at her North Carolina home told The Associated Press that she is gravely ill.
Edwards was briefly hospitalized last week and received treatment, but doctors have now told her that she may only have up to a couple months of life left, the friend said. The friend spoke on condition of anonymity because of the personal details divulged.
Edwards’ estranged husband, former presidential candidate John Edwards, and their three children were at her side at the Chapel Hill home, the friend reported. Her sister, brother, nieces, nephews, former campaign advisers and other friends were also there. The friend said Elizabeth Edwards is not in pain and in good spirits despite the seriousness of her condition.
“It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel towards everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know,” Edwards, a popular figure among Democratic activists, wrote on the Facebook post.
The 61-year-old Edwards separated from her husband after he admitted to an extramarital affair and fathering a child with a campaign videographer.
Edwards has battled breast cancer since 2004, diagnosed in the final days of the campaign when her husband was the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
The John Kerry-John Edwards ticket lost to incumbent President George W. Bush. John Edwards launched a second bid for the White House in 2007. The Edwardses decided to continue the campaign after doctors told Elizabeth that her cancer had spread, but he lost the nomination to Barack Obama.
Edwards was more than a political spouse. She was chief adviser and strategist to her husband’s campaigns for the Senate and later for the presidency. After retreating from public life as their marriage crumbled, she emerged to advocate for changes in the country’s health care system while grappling with her own disease.
She has focused on moving the country’s system of providing health care toward a single-payer process designed to serve all, often wondering aloud about the plight of those who faced the same of kind of physical struggle but without her personal wealth.
Captivated by stories of those who could not afford health care coverage, Edwards passionately retold them at round-table discussions, in writings on the Web and on Capitol Hill.
“What I’m really glad about is that I still have a seat at the table to talk about health care — that I have the strength to do it and that I also have a seat at the table,” Edwards said at an event in October 2008.
Edwards has shared with the public the most intimate struggles of her bouts with cancer, writing and speaking about the pain of losing her hair, assuring her children about their mother’s future and dealing with questions about how long she had left to live.
The Edwardses met in law school. Daughter Cate has followed her parents into a career in law while son Wade was killed in a traffic accident when he was 16. Elizabeth Edwards had two more children later, giving birth to Emma Claire at age 48 and Jack at 50.