By Katie Brown
I hate hearing the words, “Elizabeth Edwards lost her battle with cancer…” as if the battle with cancer is in any way a fair fight.
In the end, she won. Cancer could no longer invade her body, cause her discomfort or pain.
I’d much rather hear the words, “Elizabeth Edwards LIVED with cancer, until she died.”
I had written a crafted piece yesterday to honor the life and impact of Elizabeth Edwards when the news broke that Ms. Edwards had died. The news came rather suddenly in my opinion, less than 24 hours after the announcement that her cancer had spread to her liver and that she would forego any further treatments. I was shocked by the news of her death to say the least.
I hit the delete button on my original article.
My intention now is to write more about what it means to me, as a cancer survivor and patient advocate, to have met Ms. Edwards, hear her speak and be directly impacted by her personal experiences. I am one of thousands who can say that Elizabeth Edwards left her footprint on their life.
Elizabeth Edwards showed the world what it was like to LIVE with cancer, be resilient, have faith and hold tightly onto hope.
In 2006 I was an inexperienced advocate. I was still actively mourning the loss of my father to lung cancer and had started working in non-profit to make a change against this deadly killer. I was invited to attend the inaugural LIVEstrong Summit for cancer advocacy. Elizabeth Edwards was one of the speakers.
I didn’t even recognize her until she was introduced. I didn’t know her cancer story until then either. She looked me directly in the eye (along with about 100 other advocates) and opened her heart. There wasn’t a dry eye in that conference room.
I only met Ms. Edwards twice and I had seen her speak only a handful of times. Each time she thanked me (and dozens of other advocates) for what we were doing for the cancer community. She made me feel like what I was doing was important. She gave me quiet strength to forge ahead and laid upon me the responsibility and duty we had to clear the path for others who come behind us in the cancer journey.
Eventually my experiences with her and other cancer advocates gave me the courage to call myself a survivor too. I had been diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 22 and after surgery I choose never to think about it or talk about it again. The 3 month scans turned into yearly scans and the anxiety lessened as each year passed.
It wasn’t until I became a caregiver to my father that I really examined what it was like to be a survivor.
I realized that I was a survivor too.
I had survived my cancer and I had survived being a caregiver. And thanks in part to Elizabeth Edwards, I knew I had to talk about it. I realized the importance of my story and how to share it and use it to effect changes and raise awareness.
I had originally written about her “resilience” yesterday. I had written about how grace and faith accompanied her thru her life’s trials – like the tremendous pain over the loss of a child, the humiliation and betrayal of her husband, the scrutiny and judgements she faced throughout her public life and how she managed to always overcome and rise above and inspire us.
Now, I’m just writing this open letter of thanks to the Edwards family.
Thank you for sharing a part of her with the rest of us. Thank you for lending us some of her time. Thank you for letting us get to know her heart and know that she continues to live on in so many ways and in so many of the lives she touched and continues to touch.
Rest in peace Elizabeth Edwards.
It was an honor to share my survivorship with you.