Elizabeth Edwards shares her strength
Tears and a standing ovation will likely be the last memories Elizabeth Edwards has of Rochester.
Edwards, who battled breast cancer and has been diagnosed with bone cancer, spoke at the Highland Hospital Breast Cancer Education Luncheon Wednesday.
“I will die much sooner than I want to,” Edwards told the crowd of nearly 1,000 people who packed into Rochester’s Riverside Convention Center.
But, she inflicted a sense of hope into the crowd.
“My job is to stay alive until someone does their job and finds a cure,” she said.
In the wake of her diagnosis of bone cancer earlier this year, Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, has gone from city to city speaking to men and women who have been affected by the disease – primarily breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2004.
Highland Hospital celebrated the opening of its second breast care clinic location in Henrietta earlier this year. The site at 500 Red Creek Drive has the latest and greatest technological advances in breast care and cancer treatment.
Shortly after her diagnosis, Edwards began writing a book called “Saving Graces,” which recalled her battle with breast cancer. She went into remission toward the end of 2006, around the time the book came out for publication in hard copy.
She was supposed to write an additional chapter for the paperback edition about her remission, but days before her deadline, she was diagnosed with bone cancer.
“It was supposed to be the beginning of our new lives,” Edwards said.
She described life as a series of incidents which are beyond one’s control. In 1996, the Edwards and her husband lost their oldest son, Wayne, in a car accident.
“I had to accept that in 1996, years before my cancer,” she said.
When her cancer was diagnosed, Edwards knew she had to be strong. She had immense support from her family, friends and perfect strangers alike, she said.
Edwards received about 95,000 e-mails and letters from people across the globe wishing her well – many had been affected by breast cancer.
“Their desire to share ... was just overwhelming,” Edwards said. “I think what it was was personal to them. My being here today is personal to me.”
Yosepha W. Freeman of Brighton a breast cancer survivor, was one of the hundreds in the audience. She said she was inspired by Edwards.
“For me, I think you reevaluate your priorities, live each day to its fullest, don’t let the small things bother you,” Freeman said.
Before she left, Edwards implored that life itself is a victory.
She read aloud a poem called “Otherwise” by Jane Kenyon. The poem insists everything that happens each day is a gift, because it could have been otherwise.
“We are alive and that is a victory each and every day,” Edwards said.
Jessica Gaspar can be reached at (585) 394-0770, ext. 323, or at email@example.com.