How John & Elizabeth Edwards Told Their Two Young Children About The Return Of Elizabeth's Cancer

Elizabeth Edwards
How did you tell your young children, Emma Claire, 8, and Jack, 6?
Elizabeth: We all sat at the table in the family room. We called them in and said we had something important to say and they were just giggling and laughing. Jack had had a field trip to Whole Foods that day. So it was all of those kinds of regular family things. We had to wait for a calm moment, and John said, ‘I need to tell y’all something. I need to tell you that Mommy’s cancer is back.’ They seemed interested but not depressed by the information. They asked was I going to lose my hair, which delighted them the first time. No, I probably wouldn’t but John explained to them I probably would be getting medicine again.

We also explained that it wasn’t going to go away this time – and that prompted questions about whether I would die from it. John was honest and said that this cancer can kill. Then he said, ‘Everybody at the table who’s not going to die, raise their hands.’ They understood – or I hope they understood – that we’re all going to die and nobody has any guarantee of how much time they have. The only thing we have control of is how you spend the time, that precious time.

John Edwards: The kids actually responded well. It’s encouraging. It’s hard to know how much they actually grasped, but they seemed to understand.

In 10 to 15 years you could have a grandchild. (The couple have a 25-year-old daughter, Cate)
Elizabeth: I could. If I think about how long it’s been since I’ve seen my son Wade – April 4th it will be 11 years – it seems like forever. Because I have smaller children, I’d like to see them into adulthood. I’d like to see the person they marry, all those things, and maybe I will. But 11 years or 10 years – it doesn’t seem so short to me. Particularly because I really believe we’re going to have a Democratic president next time, so I believe we’re going to have money in our cancer research and we’re going to start making strides that have been building up in un-government-subsidized research.

The whole article can be found here.

Best wishes to Elizabeth and her family. She is being so courageous.


  1. oriana says

    I think he should definately focus on being with his wife and family, they need him and he should be with them and for them 100%!!!!!!

  2. sally says

    I think this is ridiculous. Cancer is a terrible aweful disease. Its horrible watching your loved one waste away to this disease…while he is on the campaign trail…who will be home to tell his little children why mommy is sick and she can’t get out of bed, or why she looks so different because the cancer is slowly eating away at her. Priorities, people….

  3. S says

    Essie–You are right on! John Edwards campaigning seems so irrelevant to me when it comes to those little children being with their mommy and daddy. Having personally suffered a loss of someone very dear to me from breast cancer, I know how valuable time and memories shared with that person is. John and Elizabeth’s children are still so young. I’m sure they don’t comprehend exactly what’s going on with mommy other than she’s sick. My thoughts and prayers are with this family.

  4. Essie says

    Even if she insisted, it’s still ridiculous!! Those children need their mother and she should spend her time trying to get well.

  5. Anne says

    I totally agree. He should be letting her enjoy their last years togather with the kids instead of handling the stresses of politics and elections of course unless she insisted.

    What a sad story.

  6. Essie says

    The only thing that makes me really sad is that she’s wasting this precious time traveling the country trying to get her husband elected president. It’s not going to happen and they should spend their time together, with the children, out of the spotlight and away from all the stress and tension. Running for office really seems kind of self-centered and selfish to me.

  7. Meme says

    This really touched my heart as a mom. You want to be able to see all those things come to pass that she mentioned about her children, seeing them into adulthood, etc… I just hope and pray that she makes it out o.k. They just seem like such a nice couple and family. My heart truley goes out to them.

  8. boo says

    This is so terrible, for anyone in this situation, I can only hope that she gets better and that treatments do in fact work… her children are still so young and need their Mommy….Prayers and thoughts are with this family.~*

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