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Edwards to Stay in Race Despite Return of Wife’s Cancer

John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, announced Thursday that her breast cancer, first diagnosed in 2004, had returned but would not stop his bid for the Democratic nomination. A cancer specialist discusses breast cancer and innovations in cancer treatment.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, delivered their news today in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

  • JOHN EDWARDS:

    The biopsy showed that the cancer had returned. It was malignant. And, so, the net result of all the tests is that she has — her cancer is back. It's largely confined in bone.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Elizabeth Edwards was first diagnosed with breast cancer in the final weeks of the 2004 presidential campaign. John Edwards was the vice presidential nominee, sharing the Democratic ticket with Senator John Kerry.

    Today, the Edwards explained how concern over a broken rib quickly led to the discovery this week of malignant cancer in Elizabeth's right rib.

  • JOHN EDWARDS:

    when the cancer goes from breast and shows in bone, which it's doing now, it's no longer curable. It is completely treatable. The thing that is true is that her cancer will not be cured now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For her part, the 57-year-old Elizabeth Edwards said she and her family were very hopeful.

  • ELIZABETH EDWARDS:

    And we're blessed to have such an extraordinary doctor in whose care I have been and will continue to be.

    But the other thing you do is keep — keep a positive attitude that we had actually before. You know, John was saying that, last week, people asked him how I was doing, and he said, she's cancer-free. It turned out not to be the truth.

    But it was that attitude of, you know, we're going to always look for the silver lining. It is who we are as people, and we will continue to do it.

    I do want to say something. And that is, this is what happens to every cancer survivor, not that you ultimately get a bad diagnosis, but, every time you get something suspicious, you go into alarm mode.

    And that's all — every cancer survivor that you know personally has exactly that experience of knowing that the pain they feel in their side, the ache they feel someplace could be the sign of something worse. This turned out to be.

    There were times yesterday that we thought it might be a lot worse than it is, and we wouldn't be having the same conference we're having right now with the same hopeful tone. We were actually encouraged as we got more and more test results. And, right now, we feel incredibly optimistic.

    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, all the same things I did last week. I do not expect — except that I will be seeing Dr. Carey a lot more often — I don't expect my life to be significantly different.

    One of the things — one of the hopeful signs, besides the fact that this is, as Lisa will say, low volume, in terms of how much cancer I have in me — in my bones — is, I'm also completely asymptomatic. And I'm actually very lucky that I cracked this rib, because, if I hadn't cracked it, I wouldn't have gotten the chest X-ray that identified the suspicious place.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Elizabeth Edwards, a lawyer, has played a major role advising her husband in 2003 and '04, as well as in the current campaign. She was asked today if she felt ready to accompany him on another presidential run.

  • ELIZABETH EDWARDS:

    I'm absolutely ready for this. I'm ready for that. Honestly, I have all the energy. I mean, one of the reasons to do a press conference, as opposed to a press release is that you can see, I mean, I don't look sickly; I don't feel sickly. And, you know, I'm as ready as any person can be for that. I mean, you know how grueling it is in general.

    There is a likelihood that some of the medications that I will be taking will at some times make me tired. I have, as you all well know — and a lot of you know — actually know that my children — my younger children, a 6- and an 8-year-old. If I get tired, I actually expect they're going to be the reason, as opposed to the medications that Dr. Carey is going to be giving me.

    But there's a chance the both of them will make me tired sometimes. And, so, sometimes I will step back to sort of regain my — my energy.

    But I'm also 57, you know, and so I might get a little tired. But, right now, I don't feel any of that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Edwards' physician, Dr. Lisa Carey, spoke to reporters afterwards.

  • DR. LISA CAREY, Elizabeth Edwards’ Doctor:

    This is a very variable thing. I don't have a crystal ball about how she's going to do.

    I can tell you that many patients with exactly the circumstances that she has do very well for a number of years. And the fact that she is a healthy person, and that there isn't a lot of the cancer, and that she doesn't have symptoms, all work in her favor.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Dr. Carey added that Edwards' cancer may have spread to other sites, including her lungs.