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Presidential Candidate John Edwards Announces Wife's Breast Cancer Has Returned
Aired March 22, 2007 - 11:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And we now have standing by our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, sitting beside me here as we wait for this news conference to happen.
Once again, stressing we are not certain of exactly what is going to come out of this news conference. All we know is that, as Mary Snow reported, it was announced last night that he would hold this news conference, alongside his wife. And so as we wait for that, we do know obviously that Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And so the question is, what are they going to tell us today? Are they going to tell us that there are new concerns? We just don't know. We will learn that shortly. But let's talk about what we do know.
As Heidi said, she was diagnosed in October 2004 with a lump the size of a half-dollar. When they went in to remove it in surgery -- she had a lumpectomy -- they also removed several lymph nodes where there were found to be cancerous cells. And she had her last chemo in 2005. She had radiation and chemotherapy.
And in her book, "Saving Graces," she says, "And that's it, I was told the cancer is gone." But it was interesting, in a television interview after that, she did say, you know, of course, you never know if it's really gone. You -- not just her, any breast cancer patient.
You just don't know if it's truly gone. The tests may show that. You can always have little microscopic pieces of cancer that could have gone elsewhere and perhaps tests did not pick it up.
But when you look at the statistics, Heidi, when someone -- when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time, survival rates are very high. Five years later, 88 percent of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive five years later.
COLLINS: So that big five-year mark that we all hear so much about...
COHEN: So important.
COLLINS: ... very important. If there is a recurrence prior to that five-year mark, how does that change things?
COHEN: That is definitely bad news. I mean, recurrences that occur that quickly within five years, or in this case, even less than that, it means that that's a cancer that is pretty fast-growing. And that is something that would have doctors very concerned.
The big question is, where does the cancer recur? Did doctors find more in that same breast? Did doctors find more in a another breast or in an organ. We don't know. We don't even know if the cancer has recurred at this point.
But that's the question they want to ask. Plus, you look at certain characteristics of the cancer. If a cancer recurs, you want to say, where has it recurred? And what characteristics does it have?
COLLINS: Sure. OK. All right.
All those questions will, I'm sure, be asked as we continue on here and wait for this press conference to happen live.
Elizabeth Cohen, our medical correspondent, thank you.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And Heidi, we want to bring in our Candy Crowley right now. Candy has been making some phone calls.
And Candy, you know, the story over the last couple of minutes at least has been driven by this reporting on this Web site, politico.com. This is a Web site that has really started to make a name for itself. But I'm curious as to what you're learning from the sources you've been talking to.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that the Edwards' campaign is pushing back on that story and saying it's incorrect. I can't tell you if the whole thing is incorrect, if part of it's incorrect, but they were adamant in pushing back very hard and saying that story is not right.
HARRIS: OK. Well, let's sort of bring folks up to speed with what politico.com -- don't want to give it too much credence, but at least to understand what politico.com is reporting and that now the Edwards' campaign is pushing back on.
CROWLEY: Well in some, they were quoting a source saying that John Edwards would suspend or might even drop out because of his wife's health problems. That is, cancer.
Now, politico.com has crackerjack reporters over there. So, I'm just telling you what they said, and then the Edwards campaign saying that's not true.
CROWLEY: But the gist of the report was that John Edwards would suspend or maybe even drop out. So that was the gist of the report that the Edwards campaign is saying not true.
HARRIS: And we have wanted to be careful not to speculate too much about what might happen in this announcement and what the outcome of the announcement might mean in terms of what's next for the Edwards campaign. But it is certainly something that we have talked about this morning, the possibility that with these new health concerns, it might lead to the former senator suspending the campaign for a while, or, in fact, bringing the campaign to a close.
CROWLEY: Sure. And part of this comes from -- you may recall that before John Edwards got into the race late last year, he said, "I wouldn't get into the race unless I had a clean bill of health for Elizabeth." So, his wife's health was very much a factor in his decision to run. And at that point, which was late last year, she had a clean bill of health.
So, if you put it now, and suppose she is sick again, you go back to that statement and know that obviously this is a man with two young children, a grown daughter, and has family responsibilities, and that's -- you know, running for president is not a part-time job.
CROWLEY: So, you would have to sort of balance that sort of thing. But again, we're not sure. There's lots of things open.
He could suspend the campaign, he could cut back on his campaign.
CROWLEY: He could get out of the campaign. There's a number of things. And only they know the details of what they're dealing with. And I assume we will know most of the details at some point pretty quick here.
HARRIS: And Candy, if we could, as we wait for these details in this news conference that should start shortly, let's step -- take a big step back and remind everyone of how this story started to develop over the weekend. Certainly, John Edwards at one point canceled a campaign stop to be with his wife.
CROWLEY: Right. She had, as we understand it, what we call a checkup, a routine checkup post obviously her bout with cancer. So she goes back from time to time for checkups.
She was apparently told then, or the next day, that she needed to come back for further tests. That was -- that would have been on Wednesday.
John Edwards then cut short his trip in Iowa and came home to be with her Wednesday. Then late last night, we all got an e-mail from the Edwards campaign saying that there would be this joint press conference for an announcement today. So, that's how it sort of progressed throughout the week.
HARRIS: Yes. OK. Candy Crowley, stay with us. Appreciate it. Thanks, Candy.
COLLINS: Want to go ahead and take a look at some of the latest polling now with our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
And again, Bill, probably worth mentioning to people that certainly we want to be sensitive by way of presidential aspirations when we're talking about the health of someone's wife. But because we do not know exactly what is going to come out of this press conference, let's go ahead and talk about that.
Where does John Edwards stand in this race?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, generally, he's been running third behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the polls. If you include Al Gore, who is not running for president at this point, Al Gore is the third ranking candidate, but he's not a candidate. He simply says he has no plans to run. He hasn't ruled it out, however.
Edwards is among the top three contenders, principally because he has a lot of appeal to activist Democrats and he has a lot of name recognition having run for president in 2004, having been the vice presidential nominee on the ticket with John Kerry. He's well-known, along with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So, he's one of the top contenders.
COLLINS: OK. So, these numbers it looks like came between the dates of March 9th and 11th.
COLLINS: Where were they earlier in the year?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Edwards has always been a top contender. He's been one of the top three.
Gore got a little bounce out of his Oscar victory, as you can see here. Gore went from 10 to 14 percent. Edwards basically kind of flat. Not a lot of changes.
A little bit of momentum there, as you see, for Obama. Hillary Clinton has actually picked up support, as well. But not a huge change, because these are statistically insignificant changes for all of these candidates. I would simply say, Edwards is one of the top three contenders, and has been for some time.
COLLINS: All right.
CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.
HARRIS: And let's get you back now to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Mary Snow is there for us.
And Mary, I guess we're getting close to this announcement here. As you heard from Candy Crowley just moments ago, the Edwards campaign is pushing back a bit from the reporting on politico.com that John Edwards might be on the verge of suspending this campaign. MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Tony, campaign staffers here would not comment on any of those reports, but we will hear very shortly from John Edwards himself, and Elizabeth Edwards. We are told by the campaign that they are here at this location, they are expected to come out in roughly about five minutes.
So, it is starting a little later than had been anticipated. Their home is close by here in Chapel Hill. Certainly, so much anticipation here in Chapel Hill, as everywhere, about what they will have to say.
HARRIS: And no doubt, a big figure there in Carolina, a trial attorney, as we all know. But this is a family that's had to deal with some difficult times in the past -- the loss of their oldest child in a car accident in 1996, and, of course, this history for Elizabeth Edwards of breast cancer, dating back to 2004.
SNOW: Absolutely, Tony. When their son died, he was 16, when he died in a car accident. And the Edwards family has talked about that openly, as well. And then came Elizabeth Edwards' battle with breast cancer.
It is not expected that their three children will be here with them today, but as one campaign aide said, you never know. But at this point, they are not expected to be here today.
But, you know, as we've been saying, that this was a very conscious decision to have this press conference held in this way. It's a very informal setting. They are not standing at a podium.
We are told that they will be taking a couple of questions after they speak. But an aide says that they were very strong in feeling that they wanted to hold this news conference, and they wanted to deliver the news for themselves.
HARRIS: OK. Mary Snow standing by for us, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where we are under, oh, I guess about five minutes from hearing this announcement from John and Elizabeth Edwards.
Mary, thank you.
COLLINS: And as we do wait for that press conference to begin, always a good to check in with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, from Washington.
Now, Candy, I'm just curious. You know, when we talk about someone who is running for president, there is an awful lot to talk about by way of stresses that are on an individual. I've heard many clips before saying, boy, if you're going to run for president, you've got to do it with every fiber of your being and every ounce of energy that you have.
Talk a little bit, if you could, about any changes that may have been noticeable in John Edwards over the course of these complications with his wife's health.
Unfortunately, it is obvious we are having a little bit of difficulty with Candy's microphone.
Candy, can you hear me?
Do we have Candy Crowley?
CROWLEY: I can hear you fine.
COLLINS: OK. Go right ahead. But start all over, if you would.
CROWLEY: OK. We had talked a little bit earlier about how he had said he wouldn't get into the campaign unless his wife had a clean bill of health.
CROWLEY: Now, this is a totally different thing now.
I can tell you, though, I talked to someone who was at a barbecue last night where John Edwards attended, gave a little speech, said he gave one of the best speeches he had ever heard. So this -- I mean, I think having had the first bout with breast cancer, certainly it informs who you are and how you deal with things, and what you think is important and all of that. But in addition to a wife with possibly ongoing health problems, he has two little kids that are in elementary school and an older daughter who is an adult.
So, if there is anything that's tough on this campaign, it's for the family. The principals are in there, and it's tough on them because they can't see their family, but they are very air aware how hard this is, particularly when you have school age children who have their own rhythms and may not be all that excited that dad is running for president, or mom.
CROWLEY: So, there's enormous stresses on family life. And this obviously is just another huge one that one would have to deal with.
Now, I can tell that you she has been his closest political adviser. And I also talked to someone who said, "I don't think Elizabeth would let him get out of this campaign."
CROWLEY: So, you know, this is someone who doesn't know -- you know, doesn't have first-hand knowledge of what's going on...
CROWLEY: ... but it just shows you what sort of power she has within that campaign. She's been a very close political adviser and somebody who he listens to. So, I'm sure this -- whatever it is, this was very much a joint decision.
COLLINS: Yes. And as we've heard in other interviews, the first time around, when she was kind of describing a little bit about what it's like to be on the campaign trail and how many different stops, how many different speeches, that even as the wife of a candidate, you are certainly involved in. It's fascinating that you say that, if indeed this news is bad about a possible recurrence of her breast cancer, that she would say, forget it, you trudge ahead.
CROWLEY: Well, that's from, you know, one of their friends. I mean, she is a tough woman.
As you mentioned, they have been through -- they have been through quite a lot as a family. I can tell you that there are -- this is the end of fund-raising for the first quarter. There is this big push now to raise money because how much money you raise can tell you a lot about the candidacy, and it gets interpreted.
And we know that Elizabeth was slated for some fund-raisers next week. He delayed one of his fund-raisers when he came back to be back with her at the doctors. So, there's never a day that you aren't supposed to be some place. It's a tough row.
COLLINS: Yes, I can only imagine. All right. Candy Crowley, thanks for that. If you'll stand by for us, that would be terrific.
HARRIS: And let's bring back in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Bill, I'm just curious. We certainly don't know what is going to be announced here in a moment, but there are clearly new health concerns, and those health concerns will have some kind of an impact on John Edwards' presidential campaign. What is the difference, in terms of one's ability to raise money between suspending a campaign -- and I guess I understand what dropping out means.
SCHNEIDER: Yes. Dropping out is declaring you are no longer running for president, you're no longer a candidate. And the difference is your ability to raise funds.
If you drop out of the campaign, then you cannot continue to amass funds for a candidacy. There is no candidacy. You can raise money, however, to retire any remaining campaign debts.
SCHNEIDER: There's no legal definition of suspension. You are still considered a candidate under the law. It does not -- the law did not prohibit a candidate from continuing to raise funds if he or she has suspended their campaign.
It's really, according to one source, Larry Noble (ph), a former general counsel with the Federal Election Committee -- he says that an announcement of a suspension is really a way of saying, don't expect me to go out and campaign, while it does maintain the candidate's ability to raise funds in the future. By the law, that person is still a candidate, even if he or she is not actively raising money.
HARRIS: And Bill, we know a lot of folks are paying close attention to the campaign in the early days, but remind everyone, if you would, of who John Edwards is as a candidate, the issues he cares about most.
SCHNEIDER: Well, in this campaign, he has been reaching out, really, to the liberal activists in the Democratic Party who represent a very significant base of support, particularly in the primaries and in the caucuses. He had been banking a lot on the so-called January states, those early states that are going to vote before the campaign officially opens in February.
Those are Iowa, Nevada, where there are Democratic caucuses -- Iowa is having a caucus. South Carolina has a primary, and the New Hampshire primary.
Basically, his strategy was to make a big showing in those early states, and many polls showed him ahead in Iowa, where he has visited a number of times and where he came in second in the 2004 contest, hoping that the momentum created by those -- at least a victory in at least one, possibly more of those states, would give him momentum going into the big states in February.
HARRIS: OK. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Hey, Bill, stay with us. Thanks.
COLLINS: As we continue to watch that live shot there, and the two microphones in the largest frame of your screen there, saw a little activity at the door. Wondering if they will be opening it and we will see and hear from John and Elizabeth Edwards, as we await from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, today.
In the meantime, though, an interesting interview with our Soledad O'Brien when Elizabeth Edwards was first diagnosed with her breast cancer. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: This is after I had found out that I had cancer. I said, "I really was at peace about the disease. I've sometimes talked about the strange gift that comes with the awful tragedy of losing a child. I had already been through the worst, I believe. We all had. And I had the gift of knowing that nothing will ever be as bad as that."
"The worst day of my life had already come. And I knew, too, that I had a chance to beat this, a chance my son never had, a chance we never had to save him."
O'BRIEN: He was 16 years old.
O'BRIEN: He died in an automobile accident.
EDWARDS: He did.
O'BRIEN: The last words you said to him was, "I love you."
EDWARDS: "I love you." That was the way we ended our phone conversations. So, you know, I'm glad they were -- it was, because, of course, I -- there was no way for me to know that that was the last conversation. I was actually calling him in the morning, trying to make certain he was out of bed when I was not there to make sure he got to school on time.
O'BRIEN: How do you go on? I mean I've interviewed mothers who have lost children over the years and I'm just baffled about how they even get out of bed in the morning.
EDWARDS: I mean, it helped to have a surviving child. That gave you a reason to get up, a reason to try to -- to make each day as happy as possible, although as I write in the book, that, you know, it was a long time that happy was just not within any -- within reach.
And then you realize that you don't want the legacy of this child to be these wrecks of a parent -- of parents that he left behind. You want the legacy to be the positive -- as positive as the boy himself. And so you feel an obligation to the memory. And that helps you focus on positive things, do positive things, and then ultimately try to find joy in your life again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The words of Elizabeth Edwards there, talking with our Soledad O'Brien quite some time ago after learning that she had breast cancer.
Want to go ahead and go back to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, now, live to our Mary Snow, who is standing by as we wait for the press conference, and John and Elizabeth Edwards to address the microphones that you see in the shot.
Mary, the very latest? What are you hearing on the ground now?
SNOW: Well, they are running a little bit late. But we were told by an aide that they are here in Chapel Hill, at the hotel.
You might see those cameras right behind me focused on a door to that hotel. That's where we are waiting for John and Elizabeth Edwards to walk in. And, you know, Heidi, besides the cameras here, and reporters, there are also some supporters here. I just talked to one woman who said, you know, she considers the Edwards part of a family, and she wanted to be here to hear what John and Elizabeth Edwards had to say.
This was supposed to start at the top of the hour. We are now being told this news conference will begin now in two minutes. So the Edwards are here. And they will be coming out in two minutes -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Mary, in those two minutes that we have, back up for us just a moment and reset the stage, in case people are just joining us, about what happened overnight. We learned pretty late in the evening, I think around 11:00 or so, that John Edwards and Elizabeth would actually be holding a press conference. Weren't exactly sure, still aren't, what the announcement is going to be. But there has been speculation, of course, as always.
SNOW: Obviously. And last night, the Edwards campaign sent out an advisory about this press conference, but they gave no details, only saying that both John and Elizabeth Edwards would be speaking today.
What CNN has learned, sources say that Elizabeth Edwards had a routine checkup on Monday, and that John Edwards on Tuesday cut short his schedule in Iowa to join her here at home in North Carolina, and that sources reported that they went to a doctor together. As we have been reporting, Politico, the political Web site, has been reporting that a friend of Edwards said that he will suspend the campaign, perhaps completely withdraw.
But as you heard Candy Crowley say, the Edwards campaign has pushed back on that. So, we really need to hear from John and Elizabeth Edwards themselves. But obviously, the speculation focused on Elizabeth Edwards' breast cancer, since she was diagnosed in 2004.
She was treated, and she had had a good bill of health. In several interviews, John Edwards had been asked about running for president, seeking the Democratic nomination, and he had repeatedly said that her health is one of the most important things in terms of his candidacy.
So, we're expecting the Edwards to walk out any moment now.
COLLINS: That's right. And as we take a little bit tighter shot of those doors there, I believe that I was calling them microphones. They're not, they are door handles.
So you had mentioned -- I think it was you earlier, Mary, who had said that they're actually not interested in coming to microphones. They are going to be wearing wireless microphones, and we will be hearing the announcement, whatever it may be, in that manner?
SNOW: That's right. It's a very informal setting. There are a couple of chairs set up, and they will be wearing wireless microphones.
And here they come, John and Elizabeth Edwards. Both of them smiling, walking up to the small stage that is formed here.
COLLINS: All right, Mary, let's just go ahead and listen in as they make their way to that stage. We will be hearing from, as you see there, John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth. A much anticipated news conference coming to us today from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
They may actually have to go to the stand mics in just a moment because we are having a little bit of trouble listening to those wireless microphones. Now we have it.
Let's try again. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say first, welcome to all of you who came here from some place else. You can see, just by looking around, why Elizabeth and I love Chapel Hill so much. And this is actually the place 30 years ago this summer where we had our wedding reception, so this is a place that's very familiar to the two of us.
We came today to talk about what's happened with Elizabeth and what's happened with her health situation. Monday of this week, Elizabeth went to the doctor because she felt a pain on her left side. She went in, had x-rays taken. The result of the x-rays showed that she may have a fracture on the left side, and there was also something that looked suspicious on a rib on the right side.
I was in Iowa at the time. She was called on Tuesday. I was in Iowa at the time. She called me and said that they wanted to do follow-up tests yesterday, on Wednesday.
So I came back from Iowa on Tuesday night. Wednesday, we went in to the hospital, here in Chapel Hill, had further tests done.
A bone study was done. That study actually made the suspicion about the rib on the right side more intense. There was more concern about it, and as a result, there was a biopsy done of that section of her rib on the right side.
The biopsy showed that the cancer had returned. It was malignant. And later in the day, we did a CT scan which was done for the purpose of basically examining the soft tissue. The bone study had looked at her hard tissue.
The CT scan showed -- showed very little. And so the net result of all the tests is that she has -- her cancer is back. It's largely confined in bone, which is a good thing.
Dr. Kerry (ph), who is actually seated on the front row here, Dr. Lisa Kerry (ph), who is in charge of Elizabeth's care, will be -- will be available to answer questions from you when we finish, if you have medical questions, technical questions. But the bottom line is, her cancer is back.
We are very optimistic about this, because having been through some struggles together in the past, we know that the key is to keep your head up and keep moving and be strong, and we intend to do exactly that. Although when the cancer goes from breast and shows in bone, which it's doing now, it's no longer curable, it is completely treatable.
And there -- I'll let Dr. Kerry (ph) speak to this later, but she indicated to us that because of the relatively minimal presence of cancer in other places, because of the size, the relatively small size of the tumor, that she and we as a result are very optimistic. And many patients in similar circumstances have lived many years undergoing treatment.
The thing that is true is that her cancer will not be cured now. Elizabeth will have this as long as she's alive, and the analogy that Dr. Kerry (ph) gave us it's like a patient having diabetes. The disease never goes away, the diabetes never goes away. But you treat it, you treat it with insulin, you take your medicine, and that's exactly what we intend to do.
And I intend to do the same thing I've always done with Elizabeth. We've been married 30 years, known each other longer than that. And we will -- we will be in this every step of the way together. And I think Elizabeth may want to say -- may want to say a few words before we take questions from you.
E. EDWARDS: Thank you all for coming. And I appreciate that we delayed telling you all anything, and that's because we have family all over the country that we wanted to talk to first. And so, we thought that was the best decision for us to do. And I appreciate that you all allowed us the opportunity to do that, to talk to everybody, explain things to my mother in Florida, and to my aunt in Pennsylvania, and John's parents, so that everybody could hear from us first, before they heard through you.
Honestly, through you hasn't turned out to be so reliable in the last 24 hours, but in addition, it's given us an opportunity to explain it to our children, which we have done. And they are fairly disappointed that it doesn't look like I will lose my hair with the next round of medicine. But aside from that, they have the same hopeful attitude that we have, and that is that you do what the doctor tells you. And we are blessed to have such a extraordinary doctor, in whose care I have been, and will continue to be.
But the other thing you do is keep -- keep a positive attitude that we had actually before. You know, John was saying that last week, people asked how she's doing, and he said, "She's cancer free." It turned out not to be the truth. But it was that attitude of, you k now, we're going to -- we're going to always look for the silver lining. It is who we are as people, and we'll continue to do it.
I do want to say something, and that is this is what happens to every cancer survivor. Not that you ultimately get a bad diagnosis, but every time you get something suspicious, you go into alarm mode.
And that's -- every cancer survivor that you know personally has exactly that experience of knowing that that pain they feel in their side, the ache they feel some place could be the sign of something worse. This turned out to be.
There were times yesterday that we thought it might be a lot worse than it is, and we wouldn't be having -- having the same conference we're having right now with the same hopeful tone. We are actually encouraged as we got more and more test results, and right now, we feel incredibly optimistic.
I expect to do next week all the things I did last week. And the week after that, and next year at the same time, all the same things I did last week. I do not expect, except that I'll be seeing Dr. Kerry (ph) a lot more often -- I don't expect my life to be significantly different. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
E. EDWARDS: Well, Campbell (ph) just asked how I was feeling physically. One of the things, one of the hopeful signs, besides the fact that this is, as Lisa will say, low volume in terms of how much cancer I have in me, in my bones, is I'm also completely asymptomatic. And I'm actually very lucky that I cracked this rib, because if I hadn't cracked it, I wouldn't have gotten the chest x-ray that identified the suspicious place, and something now which, you know, is at least a scenario about which we can be reasonably optimistic might not have been the case two years from now or three -- when I became symptomatic.
The only thing that hurts me on my whole body is my rib right here, and honestly, I bless it, because that's the reason that I'm able to stand before you with a smile.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) suspend any activities, fund-raising, travel?
J. EDWARDS: No.
QUESTION: Not at all?
J. EDWARDS: The campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly. Elizabeth and I have talked at length about this already, talked with our children about it.
Basically, as I mentioned earlier, we've been confronted with these kind of traumas and struggles already in our life. And we know from our previous experience that when this happens, you have a choice.
You can go cower in the corner and hide, or, you can be tough and go out there and stand up for what you believe in. And both of us are committed to the cause, we are committed to changing this country that we love so much, and we have no intention of cowering in the corner.
E. EDWARDS: None whatsoever.
We leave here, this press conference, to go to New York and Boston, and tomorrow to California, together.
QUESTION: Are you ready for that, campaigning (ph) on the road?
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: To the people who couldn't hear, am I ready for that? I'm absolutely ready for that. I mean, honestly, I have all the energy. I mean, one of the reasons to do a press conference, as opposed to doing a press release, is that you can see -- I mean, I don't look sickly. I don't feel sickly. And, you know, I'm as ready as any person can be for that.
I mean, you know how grueling it is in general. There is a likelihood that some of the medications that I will be taking will at some times make me tired. I have, as you all well know, and a lot of you know -- actually know that my younger children, a six and an eight-year-old, if I get tired, I actually expect they're going to be the reasons as opposed to the medications that Dr. Carey is going to be giving me. But there's a chance that both of them will make me tired sometimes. And so sometimes I'll step back to sort of regain my energy. But I'm also 57, you know, and so I might get a little tired. But right now I don't feel any of that.
And I want to say something, and that is, that one of the reasons that it's important, from my perspective, to move forward with this, is that I'm immensely proud of John's campaign. I don't -- he's run a campaign that's based on substance, based on reaching out to individual people. I mean he's made certain that people understand the reason why he wants to be president.
And it's not about John Edwards. If it were, you know, it would be easy to give it up, honestly, and I think he would give it up in a second and I would give up, although there's honestly no health reason why we should. But they're not the reason. And it's the people that John met in the last two years, working in the poverty center. And it's the people he met as he went overseas. It's the people that I met in 2003 and 2004. I described it one time, every event I ever did, someone cried on my shoulder about the state of their life.
You know -- is this a hardship for us? Yes, it's yet another hurdle. But I've seen people who are in real desperate shape who don't, first of all, have the wonderful support that I have and have no place to turn. And it's unbelievably important that we get this election right. And, in my view, and of course you all can recognize I'm probably prejudiced in this, there's nobody who's offering people of this country a more positive and delineated vision about where we can go than John.
And so that's why it's important. It's important that the American people have the opportunity to have a president like him. And I can't deprive him of that just because I want to sit home feeling perfectly well, but wanting his company.
J. EDWARDS: And if I can just take one moment, just add something that Elizabeth can't say because she would never do this. Yesterday afternoon, when we were in the hospital with Lisa (ph) and getting these results, was not a good day for us. And in the midst of all of that, we had, just the two of us, no one else was there, a conversation about what this all means.
And not shockingly to anyone who knows Elizabeth, all she wanted to talk about were me -- our children first, me, and the country. And there was no one else there. And she wasn't doing this for show. It was just me. I was the only person there. Not a word about her. No concern about her. This is the most extraordinarily unselfish woman I have ever known. And I just can't tell you how proud I am of her today.
QUESTION: How did you break your rib?
J. EDWARDS: I knew that question was coming. E. EDWARDS: Yes. OK. We moved into a new house. Y'all probably heard about it. And I have -- in one room I have a lamp that sat on the floor. And I have a chest that's in storage. And I just got sick and tired of watching that lamp on the floor. So I went into storage while John was gone on a trip and I found the chest of drawers. Unfortunately, there was some boxes in front of it. So I did, though I -- my dad was in the Navy. I've moved 100 times. Well, not 100, but, you know, a lot. And I moved -- I reached over and picked it up. Really stupid. You should be picking up something that heavy with your legs and not with your back. I knew immediately I had hurt my back. So I had a hurt back. John came home and gave me a big hug on the -- that felt uncomfortable and I wrench in a way and he immediately heard a pop. So it was -- if you want to think about the coincidences that happened that . . .
J. EDWARDS: Actually, I was beating her.
E. EDWARDS: No. No.
J .EDWARDS: This was probably a week or so ago?
E. EDWARDS: Yes, probably a week -- yes, maybe a week ago exactly now. So I went to the doctors on Monday to find out about whether -- what this was on my side. I went to the same doctor I had gone to the previous week about what do I do about my back. And I said, well, I've got a new problem now. But, honestly, I consider all of those circumstances unbelievably fortuitous. If I hadn't picked up the chest, I wouldn't have turned, the rib wouldn't have broken, I wouldn't have seen Dr. Lee, who sent me to the x-ray -- for the x-ray.
QUESTION: Obviously, it's extremely selfless of you, Mrs. Edwards, to want to continue campaigning while you're going through the treatment. Senator, did you ever consider saying to her, no, I'm not going to, even though you want me to?
J. EDWARDS: We did about this what we've done about every major decision in our lives, which is, we discussed it openly, the two of us. You won't be shocked to hear that I don't mandate anything with Elizabeth Edwards. And I don't think she believes she does with me. We talked about it, thought about it. There wasn't a great deal of consideration given to that. I think largely because, when we talked to Dr. Carey, she said that nothing about campaigning, the physical and difficult nature of campaigning, and this kind of campaign, would interfere at all with her treatment or effect her results. So that being the case, there really, from our perspective, other than sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, there was no reason to stop. And we -- I don't think we seriously thought about it, to be honest with you, but I'll Elizabeth (INAUDIBLE).
E. EDWARDS: Yes, I do want to say that before the final decision was actually made between us, you know, John cornered Dr. Carey and, you know, would this make a difference? Because if it made a difference, if the answer had been, yes, it will make a difference, I think the answer to your question would have been very different. But . . .
J. EDWARDS: Because you remember Dr. Carey said to you, you should tell that story.
E. EDWARDS: That's right. That's right. She said, no, it won't make any difference. And then she thought, she said, do you want it to make a difference? And I said, no. The truth is what we want. And so that was -- so we moved on from that. But if the answer to that question had been different, John's answer to you, I'm certain, would have been different. He would not have . . .
J. EDWARDS: But let me be absolutely clear. Any time, any place that I need to be with Elizabeth, I will be there. Period. It doesn't matter what's happening in the campaign. If she needs me, if she's not with me, but she will be most of the time, I will be there.
J. EDWARDS: I have not.
E. EDWARDS: And, honestly, we don't know whether anybody's tried to -- it may be that people have tried through the campaign. We just don't -- and we haven't heard it. I don't want to . . .
J. EDWARDS: Also, in fairness, I'm not sure they knew anything until now.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask if you could describe the treatment that you're going to be undergoing, when that treatment will start and maybe say a few words about what you're doing to prepare mentally as you do that?
E. EDWARDS: Well, we discussed the likely protocol with Dr. Carey. I don't think that that protocol is actually quite settled because there's some -- they get some information -- some information will come back from the biopsy we had yesterday that wasn't back yesterday and I don't think is even back today, in order to know with some certainty. But I understand that I will have what will be a less debilitating kind of chemotherapy, that I will basically have in some form or another, for the remainder of my life. Dr. Carey can answer that question more accurately than I am. If she says something different from what I said, she's right, I'm wrong.
E. EDWARDS: No, actually, the question was, in my book I described an abnormality that shown up on the bone scan. This is another one of the scars that you always get if you have cancer. And one of the -- and there was a shadow on one of my ribs. It actually turned out to be a shadow on my left rib, probably an old break that I may have had a long time ago, even as a child. Nobody -- it was never identified. It may be the weak place that allowed a hug and a twist to cause the break. I don't know. But this -- but the rib that is completely asymptomatic but has the cancer is actually on the other side and in the back. It's an entirely different location.
J. EDWARDS: Mark (ph).
QUESTION: Just to -- I'm sorry. Just to clarify. You don't expect that you're going to adjust your schedule, other than your obvious comment that if you need to pull out to be somewhere, you will. But you don't anticipate adjusting your schedule? And sort of a follow-up would be, mentally, how do you -- when you're in the midst of a campaign like this, how do you stay focused when you have this kind of a burden?
J. EDWARDS: Well, anyone who wants to be president of the United States needs to understand and recognize that there will be very difficult and tense, high pressure times when judgments have to be made. And if you're not able to, in a focused, thoughtful way, to deal with this kind of pressure, you're not ready to be president. And, I mean, the maturity and the judgement that's required of the president, especially in these historic times, requires the president to be able to function and focus under very difficult circumstances. And as I mentioned earlier, we have -- it's not the first time we've been through things like this. So we have some experience with it. And I think we have demonstrated how we deal with it?
E. EDWARDS: Can I say something about that? And that is, I've seen John through each of the things -- some things before there were ever any press around -- to watch him in tough times. And it's not that it doesn't hit him. I mean everything's hit him like they hit everybody else. But he has an unbelievable toughness, a reserve that allows him to push forward with what needs to happen.
Because (ph) of what happened after our son died in 1996, the reason we were able to accomplish the things we were able to accomplish in his name. I'd like to say it was me. It sure wasn't. It was entirely because John saw what needed to be done and persisted in getting it done.
And with my breast cancer, it was the same thing. I was able to be, in a sense, something I'm not usually, which is docile. I was a docile patient because I knew that all the toughness that was required of me, he exhibited for me. He found out what needed to be done. He found out who the best doctors were and made certain that I had everything that I need. Even though he was facing the same unknowns that everybody who faces cancer faces. He's unbelievably tough.
J. EDWARDS: But this is what I mean by unselfish. Thank you all very much.
E. EDWARDS: Thank y'all.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Al right. So there you have it. John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards coming before the press to tell us exactly this. That her cancer has returned. It has moved from the soft issue to the bone. They are very optimistic. But as you may well know, almost the mediate questions after spending quite a bit amount of time telling us about the medical side to this story, is the political side of this story, as well. This campaign will certainly, according to John Edwards, not be suspended. It will go on as they had planned. Candy Crowley was about that, saying that it was possible that Elizabeth would say, no matter what, you keep going. You heard her say that she believes in her husband. So a couple of reports out there, Reuters, as well as Politico.com, wrong on that front. But certainly they were right about this recurrence of cancer.
We want to go ahead and bring in Elizabeth Cohen now and talk a little bit more about the medical side of all of this.
All right, so the headline here seems to be here, the x-ray showed that after finding out she had cracked her rib, indeed, some people might say that was his fault, he squeezed her too hard in a hug, that the cancer had moved into the bone. What exactly are we talking about now with that change?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Breast cancer, unfortunately, can metastasize. It can metastasize sometimes just within the breast, sometimes to nearby lymph nodes. In this case it went to the bone.
I actually asked a breast cancer specialist. I said, we're going to be looking at a scenario here, we think, with a recurrence of breast cancer. Sort of paint the picture for me. And she said the best case scenario, if you can call it that, is when it is just recurred within the breast. The worse case scenario is when it's gone through the bloodstream to distant organs like the liver or the lungs. Spreading to the bone is a middle case scenario. It is not as hopeful or optimistic as if it had just gone to the breast again or just to near limp nodes, but it is not nearly as bad as if it had gone to lungs or lymph nodes.
Now, there are no good statistics, no good survival rates for people with metastatic breast cancer. What I can say, though, is that there are statistics for people surviving the first breast cancer. That 88 percent of women are still alive after being diagnosed the first time. That number's not - they don't know what that number is exactly for people the second time out with breast cancer. They know that it is not nearly as high. And that's why John Edwards said, this is not curable, this is treatable. It's very different.
COLLINS: Yes. Very big distinction there. And also talking a little bit about the low volume. I mean the amount of cancer, I guess. That's, obviously, a good thing. And that she's asymptomatic at this point. She says, you know, I think I'll be doing the same exact things that I did last week, next week, and then also even next year. In fact, I'm hearing now that Elizabeth's doctor that we heard them mention in this press conference is now talking. So let's go ahead and listen in to see what she has to say.
DR. LISA CAREY, ELIZABETH EDWARDS' PHYSICIAN: Not a lot of disease, very good health otherwise and no symptoms.
Do you have any questions that I can -- and I'm sure you'll also respect some of the issues of privacy between doctor and patient, if I am general in some of my answers.
QUESTION: Exact diagnosis? Can you tell us what the exact diagnosis is?
CAREY: So this is metastatic or stage four breast cancer.
QUESTION: Are you at a particular hospital or are you in private practice?
CAREY: I'm at UNC Lineberger Cancer Center. I am, yes, I am a medical oncologist.
QUESTION: And not being able to see into the future, can you talk a little bit about quality of life for patients with stage four breast cancer, life expectancy, that kind of thing?
CAREY: You know, that's actually the thing that we focus on. Since this is an -- you know, is not considered curable, but is considered treatable, as you can imagine, the therapies that we give have to do two things. One is, they have to control the cancer, and the other is, they have to not make the patient sick. So all of those therapies I was mentioning, actually part of the denominator has to be that they are well tolerated and that they allow people to live their lives as comfortably and as ordinarily and productively as possible.
QUESTION: Can you describe exactly where the cancer is, how far it spread and what exactly the therapies will be?
CAREY: So, the first part is, that her cancer looks like it's primarily in the bone. There may be some other sites, but they're very small and not as clear. So the focus will be on the bone. And actually, there are some tests that are not yet back that will help us decide exactly what the therapy will be. So we'll know that over the next week or two.
QUESTION: Mr. Edwards said that many people, without quantifying how many, have survived this, and making the analogy to diabetes, that it's not curable but treatable. What does literature suggest about statistically being able to survive stage four cancer, assuming that it doesn't progress?
CAREY: Well, stage four breast cancer is a very heterogenous thing, you know. So there's -- you know, some people, none of the treatments that we use work and so their survival is short. Other people, it can live with it for many years. And exactly -- since it's so -- you know, if you think about it, it's like taking, you know, all of you and saying, what's the average age. You know, well, you know, I mean I can give you a number but it's not meaningful for any one of you. And, unfortunately, we don't know until we give therapy exactly how hers will go.
QUESTION: Mrs. Edwards coming in to have her checkups, how many in a year does she have like how many scares does she have? Has she had?
CAREY: Well, I think this was the biggest scare that she has had. I mean she's been a healthy person, you know, through all of this and has really not had a lot of problems, as you know. Her medical history has been quite, besides the breast cancer, quite unremarkable.
QUESTION: What about the actual treatment on the road? Can you describe what sort of contingencies need to be made for while she's out traveling, other than just the medical -- the prescription regimen?
CAREY: Yes. You know, in reality you can't ignore this diagnosis and the need for active treatment, depending on whatever it is. But many people continue to work and function normally while they're undergoing therapy. Since we haven't decided exactly what the therapy is going to entail, it's hard to be a little more specific than that. So time will tell. But I can tell you that many of my patients, most of my patients, while they're undergoing therapy, continue to live their lives doing the things they were doing before. She will have to come to clinic more often and that would be about the extent of it that I can predict right now.
CAREY: Well, so we only biopsied one place because, you know, that's what they were commenting on. The biopsy was in that one rib. But, yes, it is involving other bones.
CAREY: Possibly other organs. But not to any significant degree.
CAREY: Because there aren't very many sites. So, as an oncologist, we are often presented with cases with varies amounts of involvement. Sometimes enough to make people sick from the cancer. And sometimes just when we do the scans, we simply see a lot of cancer growth throughout the body. This is not the case here.
QUESTION: The sites and where they are? The other sites that you're talking about?
CAREY: So in addition to the bone, it's possible that it's involving the lung.
QUESTION: Is surgery an option for her?
CAREY: At this point surgery is not an option for her. And the -- how frequently we need to scan her in part will depend on how she's doing and what therapy we end up using.
CAREY: In about a week or two.
QUESTION: The number of times she's going to come to clinic. Do you have any idea of how often that will be, how frequent she'll be back in?
CAREY: No, it will depend on what we end up treating her with.
QUESTION: To make bones weaker, more susceptible to breaking? Can you tell me what kind of problems does it create?
CAREY: It can. In her case, none of the involvement is to that extent that we're concerned about fracture at this point.
QUESTION: Can you speak -- sorry. Can you just expand a little bit more on the timing of this as it relates to her last sort of major examination and what might have occurred between that time and Monday?
CAREY: Well, she is, you know, she's examined routinely ever since her diagnosis. And, you know, this, you know, came up within the last . . .
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's break in for just a moment to let you know that we will get back to Elizabeth Cohen in just a couple of moments for further analysis of what we've been hearing from the doctor who is treating Elizabeth Edwards. But right now, let's get you to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who had comments about this news conference just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First, our thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth Edwards.
Also, as somebody's who's been through this. Elizabeth Edwards is setting a powerful example for a lot of people. And a good and positive one. She has been on top of diagnosis and followup. When you have cancer, it's very important to keep checking. She's being aggressive. She's living an active life. And a positive attitude, prayers, and people you love are always a very good addition to any kind of medicine you have. So, for Elizabeth Edwards, good going. Our prayers are with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Way to go. Kind words there from White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
Let's turn now to our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.
Candy, I want to give you an opportunity just to sort of talk to us about what you heard, and then we will talk about the politics of all this.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I heard two people who came to a decision, obviously jointly, that -- I was most struck and wanted to ask Elizabeth actually when she was on the set about it not being curable but it being treatable, which is not how one tends to think of cancer. So I'm not sure what that means.
But they clearly felt that they could go on. She has a fund- raiser next week. They are talking off for New York after this press conference to do some more fund raising and some more meeting with supporters and donors. So they are determined that this campaign going on.
I thought it was interesting that it seemed to be Elizabeth Edwards who said, listen, you think we have it rough, I talk to people every day who cry to me about their problems. It's really important that we go on with this campaign because the future of this country is really important. So this sounded to me very much like a dual decision.
HARRIS: You know what, Elizabeth Cohen is right here. And, Elizabeth, if you would, take on that question of not curable but treatable.
COHEN: Right. All I can do is really compare it to a cancer that you find for the first time. When a woman shows up at an oncologist office for cancer for the first time that's just in her breast, the oncologist will likely say to her, we can lick this. We can get rid of this cancer. We're going to do a lumpectomy. We're going to give you chemo and radiation and you could be cancer free for the rest of your life.
In this situation, where the cancer has already spread to the bone, and as they said, possibly other organs, that's not the scenario that they're really looking at right now. They're not talking really about getting rid of this cancer. That would be extremely difficult and unlikely to do. What they're talking about is treating it and containing it. And Dr. Carey said, in a way that doesn't make her more sick. You don't want to give her treatment that's going to keep her alive but make her feel horrible and unable to live her life. So that's what they mean by treatable but not curable.
COLLINS: Right. And she also likened it to, which I thought was really interesting, having diabetes. I mean this is a situation that's, you know, you're going to deal with it the rest of your life. Can't make it go away, but certainly survivable. We also heard her mention stage four. When we look at some of this information that we found here from the National Cancer Institute, stage four is pretty far down there. You've got zero, one, two, three, and then four.
COHEN: Right. Exactly. And so stage one cancer is where it is just in the location where you found it. So for breast cancer, stage one would be cancer that is just in the breast. Stages two and three is where it's moved on to lymph nodes or moved on to tissue that's nearby. Stage four is where it's moved to something distant like the bone. So the Edwards' are being very open here.
This isn't always the case sometimes where people in politics or in public life, they mince words. There's not a lot of mincing words here. It is stage four breast cancer. Sort of the one question that doesn't seem to be answered here is that both Dr. Carey and John Edwards mentioned possibly in other organs. I guess they don't know the answer to that now. They may have seen something that looked questionable. But they saw things that looked questionable before. The first time she was diagnosed, they saw spots on her bone and her liver and they thought that was cancer and it wasn't. So it seems like there are still some questions out there.
COLLINS: Yes. Sure.
HARRIS: Let's bring back in our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Candy, let's talk about the politics of this for a second. You heard John Edwards say, the campaign goes on, the campaign goes on strongly. We have no intentions of cowering in the corner. Really, in the face of this new diagnosis. A strong, confident face on this.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. And the statement from somebody who has been through a lot. Remember, this is a family that not only has been through her breast cancer in 2004, but also lost a son in a tragic car accident when he was 16. So they have really walked through some deep waters, as they say. And each time, as she mentioned, they just sort of plowed on through. And what you are seeing here, I think, is just the next chapter of that, saying, look, they tell us we can treat this. We're going ahead. We're going to be together, although he did say, look, any time she needs me, that's where I'll be.
So I thought this was actually a really powerful news conference for the two of them because I think that what those who have watched them together talk about, that kind of unity of purpose that they have about her being his best both personal and political advisor, came to play, and everything we heard between the two of them today.
HARRIS: And when you heard the reporting from Politico.com, let's give you all due credit here -- Politico.com was reporting that the Edwards' campaign was going to suspend activities. Boy, you quickly jumped and the phone and started to talk to your sources and you found out early on that the campaign was pushing back.
CROWLEY: Well, yes, and also Mark Preston (ph), who's our political editor, both of us -- you know, what do you try to do? You try to either get the story first yourself or confirm a story when it's out there. And when you get, you know, push back, I mean, it could have easily have gone the other way. You know, sometimes you get push back from campaigns and find out, of course, that it was true to begin with. But, obviously, this push back was so strong. It was, do not report this! So that's pretty much why we went ahead and reported it.
HARRIS: And many thanks to Candy Crowley, many thanks to Elizabeth Cohen for helping us with our coverage of this story this hour. You are back in the NEWSROOM in just minutes with Brianna Keilar and Don Lemon, with continuing coverage of this story, all afternoon long here on CNN.
COLLINS: Have a good day everybody.
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