I feel for any woman who is struggling to deal with this dreadful disease, which turns our own cells into the instruments of our destruction. It is not a gentle or kind illness. Breast cancer robs us of comfort, of functionality, of dignity, often of our very selves, before it takes our lives.
It was just over three years ago that Ms. Edwards learned she had Stage IV breast cancer - ER positive, the most common and deadly sort of breast cancer. The cancer that I share.
The average lifespan post-diagnosis for Stage IV breast cancer is 2-3 years, so in this - if nothing else - Elizabeth Edwards was fairly average. My cancer was diagnosed two years ago; at that time it was more advanced than Ms. Edwards' was when she was diagnosed. She chose to go through chemo treatment, and so far I have not. I do not know what her diagnosis was as far as aggressiveness, but mine is the most aggressive possible. It has eaten through much of my pelvis, and at the least is now also busily working away at my spine and ribs.
She understood that this was not a battle that could be won, and so do I.
My son will hopefully graduate from college in the spring of 2012. My dearest hope is to see him do so. I wish to be, as Elizabeth Edwards was, just a bit above average.
My sympathies go out to Ms. Edwards' children, family, and friends. My hope, although it is not an optimistic one, is that Senator Edwards and his fellow legislators use this loss as impetus to do something about the current shameful state of affairs pertaining to research on prevention and treatment of this terrible and all-too-common disease.
Scanning technologies are a good thing - although they, too, could be vastly improved so that they don't raise our chances of getting cancer as they search for existing tumors - but we won't ever find a cure until we stop spending most of our money on studies of already-approved drugs that we know don't really work. We need to institute a wide-scale program that brings doctors together internationally, that encourages them to share information in an organized way, and that funds the study of promising new treatment options.
I can't think of a better way to honor Elizabeth Edwards than to pass legislation that would do this.