John Edwards to Continue Campaign Despite Wife’s Cancer

“John Edwards is suspending his campaign for President, and may drop out completely, because his wife has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that sickened her in 2004,” reports Ben Smith.

Sad news. Frankly, I’ve never given his campaign much of a shot, anyway. But the Edwards family has certainly had more than its fair share of misery.

UPDATE: Edwards has begun the news conference and confirmed that Elizabeth’s cancer has returned. AP has a one-sentence report up now, which will evolve into a more developed story.

UPDATE: I’ll be damned:

John Edwards said Thursday his wife’s cancer has returned, but said he will continue his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. “The campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly,” Edwards told reporters, his wife by his side.


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.

(Post title changed accordingly.)

I’m not sure what to make of his decision to press on despite what would appear to be terminal cancer in his wife. My instinct is that a wealthy man, who can certainly afford not to “work” (if you want to call campaigning for president “work”) should spend as much time as he can with his wife under the circumstances. Then again, I presume they made this decision together as a family and, for all I know, Elizabeth talked him out of quitting.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Oops. Looks like the Politico is the new Drudge.

    There’s a reason those stuffy old-media types get *two* sources before they run with a story.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I can only wish both John and Elizabeth Edwards well. Optimism and hope are good weapons for fighting cancer (and pretty darned useful for presidential candidates, too).

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Then again, I presume they made this decision together as a family and, for all I know, Elizabeth talked him out of quitting.

    Knowing what I do of their relationship, I’d say that Elizabeth probably talked him out of quitting. She’s pretty rabid on their campaign blog. I like her. And based on what I know about him, I like Edwards, too. He seems to be a decent guy with actual conviction who in his legal career has managed to do some very good things for people who were seriously wrong. I’m not sure that exactly qualifies one to be President, but I certainly TRUST him more than Clinton or Obama. (Although I’d prefer to see Richardson win the nomination.)

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    Well, that was an interesting twist to the story. Perhaps it is as James’ has suggested and Mrs. Edwards who talked her husband out of suspending the campaign.

    In any event, I too wish Both John and Elizabeth Edwards well. Having a family member with cancer is quite scary and hard to deal with.

  5. Billy says:

    Prayers all around, certainly.

    My sense is that she would definitely refuse to let him quit over this. And good for both of them.

  6. Julian says:

    Sorry. This reflects poorly on Edwards. His wife certainly will not be able to accompany him on a grueling campaign schedule, so will most likely be left whithout her husband on-and-off for several months with what may be a terminal illness. No matter what she insists, he’s made a poor decision in my mind.

  7. Andy says:

    Julian, thanks for your insightful post.

    If I ever have a cancer diagnosis, I’ll be sure to look you up when I need an uninformed ignoramus on the Internet to make shit up, as opposed to asking the top cancer specialists in the state of North Carolina about my prognosis.

  8. B. Minich says:

    It sounds like that if all goes well, she will be alive and well for many years – that basically, the cancer won’t go away, but won’t be much of a factor if treated right.

    Lets hope that’s the case. I probably would make a similar decision, but privately say “if she needs me, and if her condition worsens, this campaign ends immediately.”

  9. Adam says:

    Prayer for the Edwards family.

  10. Julian says:

    And thanks for your insightful post as well, Andy.

  11. I wish Elizabeth Edwards the best of luck in coping with and hopefully overcoming her disease. Further, I hope her circle of family and friends can provide her, and each other, with the care, support, and strength they will need going forward.

    It isn’t my place, or anyone else’s, to tell the Edward’s how to live their lives, any more than it would be the Edward’s, or anyone else’s, place to tell me how to live mine. But I do have one question, should this intensely personal struggle be conducted in a public forum?

  12. Anderson says:

    who in his legal career has managed to do some very good things for people who were seriously wrong

    Insurance defense lawyer, are you, Charles? 😉

  13. Steve Verdon says:

    Charles? I think you mean Alex, Anderson.

  14. No problem, I seem to have that effect on people in these threads from time to time.

  15. Steph says:

    While I think he has less qualifications than my dog and is an ambulance chaser I have actually met Elizabeth and she is a nice lady.

    I wish her the best.

    My mom has a friend who is 5 1/2 years past a diagnosis like this. She knows she won’t live to be 80 but is treasuring what she has now. She is thankful for this time as she has seen 2 children graduate college and marry and see her first grandchild born.

  16. Anderson says:

    Yikes – sorry to misdirect my humor.