The Edwards’ Decision: Their Business

A disclaimer here: my opinions have nothing to do with politics. Those who know me know I am NOT a political being. My opinions are about people and their healthcare decision-making.

At least a dozen people have asked me what I think of Elizabeth and John Edwards decision to keep campaigning despite the recurrence of her breast cancer.

My answer is: it’s not up to me to pass judgement! It’s THEIR decision, and I hope only that it’s based on good partnering with her doctors, good advice, and plenty of research into the possibilities.

Watching the Edwards on TV, and reading about them in the press, have raised some of my own emotions from my cancer near-miss. Occasionally I still have some post-traumatic stress reaction — a melt down at a movie, or while reading a book, or hearing someone else’s story. Anyone who has been diagnosed with a death sentence (or who has loved someone with that diagnosis) knows how devastating it can be. I can’t begin to imagine how it feels to have licked it the first time, and then have to go through that again.

The most important impact such upsetting news has, I think, is that you find yourself realigning your own priorities. The reality check of a death sentence helps you better understand what’s really important to you. It’s no longer about things like, “before I die, I want to learn to scuba dive, and see the pyramids.” It’s more like, “I have only limited time, and this is what I want to do with it.”

I instantly found myself with two priorities: family and loved ones first, then work.

For those few months before I learned I had been misdiagnosed, I spent so much time with my loved ones! I was single and not dating anyone at the time. I was lucky in that both my daughters and my parents were living nearby, and we got together several times each week. They were so loving and supportive and that was so important to all of us, to be able to spend that time together. And when I got the final confirmation of my misdiagnosis — we were all together to celebrate, too.

Close behind spending time with my loved ones, and like Elizabeth Edwards, I threw myself into my work and my diagnosis-related research. I was manic in my work at the computer, following through with my instincts that something in my diagnosis was horribly wrong, terribly askew. And I kept up with my workload. I didn’t tell clients about my diagnosis, because I was self-employed and couldn’t afford to lose business. That frenzied approach did two things: first, it allowed me to scour all the information out there to prove my misdiagnosis. Second, I earned more money for my business in 2004 than any prior year! All that work was simply a coping mechanism, albeit a fruitful one.

For right now the Edwards seem to have chosen to put work first and family second. Because Elizabeth’s cancer can be contained and controlled for now, it makes sense to them to do so. It’s not up to any of us to second guess their decision because it’s precisely that: THEIR decision.

My guess is, as time goes on and the cancer spreads, which it will eventually, that their priorities will begin to shift more to family first. They seem to be loving and caring and dedicated people. I can’t imagine it will be any other way.

We need to support them — and I’m not referring to politics here — I mean in the caring way we would for fellow human beings who have a tough road in front of them.

We need to give them credit — because they’ve taken their decision-making and responsibilities seriously, as all sharp patients should.

And we need to thank God that we aren’t in a position to have to make the same kinds of decisions. There but for the grace of God….

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Trisha Torrey
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