John Edwards said Thursday that his wife is now battling an incurable reappearance of cancer but vowed to continue his second bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“The campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly,” Edwards told reporters, his wife by his side.
Earlier Thursday, MSNBC.com incorrectly reported that Edwards would suspend his campaign because of his wife’s illness. The report was based on a statement an Edwards friend made to Politico.com, a political Web site, and a source who spoke to NBC.
‘No reason to stop’
The recurrence of the cancer — this time on Elizabeth Edwards’ bone — presents a setback for the couple, both personally and politically. But both said the cancer was treatable and that they would stick with their plans to campaign vigorously for the nomination.
“From our perspective, there was no reason to stop,” Edwards said. “I don’t think we seriously thought about it.”
Edwards had canceled a Tuesday evening house party in Iowa to go with his wife to a doctor’s appointment, which his campaign described as a follow-up to a routine test she had Monday.
Faced with questions about how his wife’s illness affected his political future, Edwards said he will pursue his second bid for the presidency, but: “Any time, any place I need to be with Elizabeth I will be there — period.”
First diagnosis in 2004
Mrs. Edwards, 57, was first diagnosed with cancer in the final weeks of the 2004 campaign. The day after Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and Edwards, his running mate, conceded the election to George W. Bush, Edwards announced that his wife had invasive ductal cancer, the most common type of breast cancer, and would undergo treatment.
Mrs. Edwards underwent several months of radiation and chemotherapy for the lump in her breast. Her husband’s campaign has said she had recovered from the illness.
“I don’t look sickly, I don’t feel sickly. I am as ready as any person can be for that,” she said at the news conference.
John Edwards said a biopsy of her rib had showed that the cancer had returned.
The bone is one of the most common places where breast cancer spreads, and once it does so it is not considered curable.
But how long women survive depends on how widespread the cancer is in the bone, and many can survive for years. The longer it takes for cancer to spread after the initial tumor, the better the prognosis. She was diagnosed in 2004.
Chemotherapy and radiation are standard treatments, along with use of drugs that specifically target the bones called bisphosphonates. Other treatments include hormone therapy if the cancer is responsive to estrogen.
“I will have what will be a less debilitating kind of chemotherapy ... for the rest of my life,” Elizabeth Edwards said.
Dr. Lisa Carey, Elizabeth Edwards’ physician, said that initial tests showed some very small suspicious spots elsewhere, but that the therapy focus would be on the bone. Asked where else, she said “possibly involving the lung.”
Carey spoke to reporters following the Edwardses news conference.
‘Go out there and be tough’
The couple, married 30 years, have a grown daughter, Cate, and two young children, Emma Claire and Jack. Their teenage son, Wade, died in 1996 when high winds swept his Jeep off a North Carolina highway.
“We’ve been confronted with these kind of traumas and struggles already in our life,” Edwards said. “When this happens you have a choice — you can go and cower in the corner or you can go out there and be tough.”
Elizabeth Edwards added: “We’re always going to look for the silver lining — it’s who we are as people.”
Edwards is running in the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates. Polls show Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama ahead of him, but he is making a strong showing in Iowa, site of the nation’s first presidential caucus.
To emphasize his commitment to the race, Edwards said he was leaving North Carolina to go to New York, Boston and later California — all big fundraising locales.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a rival for the nomination, said he and his wife offered their prayers, and in a telephone call to The Associated Press, added: “If there is one message here, it should be that we should all redouble our efforts to lick that deadly disease.”
Sen. Clinton's reaction
Another rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, also said Edwards was in her prayers.
“I admire her optimism and strength in the face of adversity, and I look forward to seeing them both on the campaign trail,” Clinton said in a statement.
At the White House, press secretary Tony Snow said “our prayers are with you.”
“As somebody who has been through this, Elizabeth Edwards is setting a powerful example for a lot of people — and good and positive one,” said Snow, who had his colon removed in 2005 and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer.