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Reaction to Elizabeth Edwards' Cancer

Aired March 22, 2007 - 21:00   ET


FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The biopsy showed that the cancer had returned. It was malignant.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: We were actually encouraged as we got more and more test results. I expect to do, next week, all the things I did last week.


MARIA SHRIVER, GUEST HOST: Tonight, presidential hopeful John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth put a brave face on some frightening news -- her cancer is back and it spread from her breast to her rib. He says his campaign goes on.

What's next for her?

We'll ask Elizabeth Edwards' fellow breast cancer survivor, music superstar Sheryl Crow and possible presidential candidate Tommy Thompson. His mother-in-law died of breast cancer and his wife and daughter are both breast cancer survivors.

All of that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening, everyone.

I'm Maria Shriver in for Larry King this evening.

Disturbing medical news today and it could also impact the presidential race.

Candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth announced that her breast cancer, once in remission, has returned.


J. EDWARDS: 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're committed to changing this country that we love so much and we have no intention of cowering in the corner.


SHRIVER: One question today -- will John Edwards' place be on the campaign trail or by his wife's side? Millions may be wondering about that. But the more pressing questions are about Elizabeth Edwards' prognosis.

Here to discuss that tonight, Grammy winning singer/star and breast cancer survivor, Sheryl Crow. She joins us from Nashville tonight.

And here in Los Angeles with me, Dr. Susan Love here in the studio. She is president and medical director of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and an expert on breast cancer.

And I want to thank both of you women for joining us this evening.

Sheryl, let me begin with you.

Needless to say, when you heard this news, it affects someone like you in a much more direct way than someone who's never experienced breast cancer.

What was your reaction when you heard it?

SHERYL CROW, MUSIC SUPERSTAR, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR: Well, I think probably like most breast cancer survivors -- and I do call myself a survivor even though I'm only about a year and a month out -- you have that immediate, knee jerk reaction of I wonder if this is going to happen to me. I wonder if it, right now, is -- is going to show up somewhere else in my body. And it makes you shudder with -- with fear. And, also, your heart really goes out to your sister survivor, because I think you and I, Maria, talked about this -- this amazing community of women who seem to find each other, who have had this common experience.

And just watching Elizabeth handle her situation with such courage and such grace, I think it really, for all of us who have gone through that experience -- and hers probably much more severe than, than my own -- it's -- it just -- it grabs your heart.

SHRIVER: Did it make you call your doctor, do a check of yourself, sit down with yourself and think do I have any aches and pains?

Because she said that she felt something in her rib and went right away to her doctor.

CROW: Well, I loved -- I saw the interview with her earlier, or at least their statement, and I loved what she said about I blessed my rib, because the symptoms weren't there yet and I -- I had talked to my oncologist when I got my year check-up about a month ago. And she said that probably the breast cancer that I had had been there for perhaps five years before it actually manifested itself as any kind of symptom.

Now, I -- I didn't have any pain. There was no lump. It just showed up in a mammogram as calcifications and turned out to be invasive ductal carcinoma, which is what Elizabeth had and also which is probably the most prevalent or the most common kind of breast cancer.

And, you know, it's -- because I just went about a month ago, I knew that, at least right now we know that it hasn't spread to my other breast or to any other organ. But certainly for the first five years, I think every time you wake up with a sore throat or you have an ache in your back, you think has it -- has it spread somewhere?

That's the first thing that comes to your mind.

SHRIVER: It's a very scary moment today, I think, for all the thousands of women like Sheryl, who have been diagnosed a year out, two years, even three, four, five years out, what Elizabeth Edwards is going through.

How unusual is this, Dr. Love?

DR. SUSAN LOVE, BREAST CANCER EXPERT: Well, most women who get breast cancer are cured of it. But there still are 40,000 women a year in this country who die of breast cancer and who therefore get recurrences that we have to worry about.

So it does happen. And certainly it's the fear of every woman, just as Sheryl said, who has breast cancer, that it will be them.

SHRIVER: But not too long ago Elizabeth Edwards was saying I'm encouraging my husband to run for president because I've been given a clean bill of health.

LOVE: Right.

SHRIVER: I'm in remission.

So, people are shocked today when they're told she has incurable but treatable breast cancer, stage four.

LOVE: Well, the problem is that the tests we use to monitor people are not that sensitive. And so if they are all negative, it doesn't mean there are no cancer cells anywhere in the body. It just means there's not enough to be detected by the tests we have.

So when she had her tests, there was nothing detectable. And then it grew since that time until it was present now, I guess, in the rib.

SHRIVER: What exactly does that mean for all of us who have not had breast cancer, stage four, incurable, but treatable?

LOVE: Well...

SHRIVER: Explain what the prognosis is for that.

LOVE: ... once breast cancer comes back in another organ -- in your liver, your lungs, your bones...

SHRIVER: Your rib.

LOVE: ... your rib -- well, that's a bone -- you can't cure it. The person will eventually die of breast cancer.

Now, eventually is a -- can be a year, it can be 10 years. But once it's back in an important organ, we can't cure it. But we can treat it. We can do treatments that will put you into remission for a period of time then it pops up again. Then you do another treatment that puts you into remission for a while, then it pops up again.

And so it's more of a chronic disease. It's, I don't know, like, as I think Elizabeth said, like diabetes or -- which we don't cure -- or AIDS, which we don't cure. And yet we're able to -- to treat people and to keep them going for a while.

SHRIVER: Now, Elizabeth Edwards said in her press conference there today, "I will be doing next week what I was doing this week," a very brave face.

Sheryl, when you were going through treatment, did you feel like doing the following week what you had done the week before? Is that realistic?

CROW: Well, you know, what -- what was going on in my life at that time was pretty extreme. So there was -- there was just a lot of chaos around me. But one of the things that I -- that I still encourage women to do while they're going through treatment is to keep your life as normal as possible, do the things that you love and certainly I believe that almost every woman goes through a metamorphosis -- you -- because all of a sudden you're taking every bit of your life into account. You're sort of analyzing, you're trying to sever -- savor every moment. You're going through lots of transition.

And, you know, it can't help but -- but change you. But the thing that you want to do I try to maintain some normalcy in your life so that you don't feel like everything is completely spinning out of control and to make sure and be surrounded by people who are positive and -- that's one of the things that I love about what Elizabeth said today and why I think she's so courageous is that she -- I mean I look at her and I think that she has had a life like Job from the bible, such amazing trials. And yet she handles himself with such grace.

And one of the things that she said was just trying to keep her life as sane and as normal as possible while she goes through this, in order to keep some order and to be able to live her life and enjoy it. And almost every breast cancer survivor or woman who's gone through treatment that I've met has kind of adhered to that.

SHRIVER: Dr. Love, you were telling me before we went on that many people come out and announce that they've had breast cancer and then you never really hear from them again and that it's very courageous for someone like Elizabeth Edwards to come and say two years in, I have it and it's back.

What signal does that send?

LOVE: Well, I think it's very important because I think in some ways we've gotten too glib with breast cancer. We think everybody is cured and oh, it's too bad they have to do chemo and all this, but they'll be OK.

And there certainly are a lot of women who are OK. But there still are women who die of breast cancer and who have recurrences of breast cancer.

And I think for Elizabeth to put a face on that and to have -- that it's not a failure, it's not her failure that she recurred, it's a failure that we haven't come better in research to be able to cure everybody.

And it really is very brave of her and I think it does a great service that she came out and let everybody know that this was going on for her.

SHRIVER: Two hundred thousand some women every year diagnosed with breast cancer.

We'll have more with Sheryl Crow and Dr. Susan Love, when we come right back.


E. EDWARDS: At times yesterday that we thought it might be a lot worse than it is, and we wouldn't be having -- having the -- the same conference we're having right now with the same hopeful tone. We were actually encouraged as get 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.




J. EDWARDS: The only thing I have thought about is making sure that we have 40 more years together. And Elizabeth and I have been married 27 years. We are physically connected to each other and we've been through a lot with our children and with our family and our lives. And our lives are completely intertwined.

And all that I've thought about is making sure we get her well and that she's there for me and for my kids.


SHRIVER: We are back talking with Dr. Susan Love here in Los Angeles.

And Sheryl Crow is joining us from Nashville.

And Dr. Love, before we went to the break, you heard Elizabeth Edwards at the press conference this morning saying, you know, yesterday we thought this could be worse, we thought we might be saying something different here today. And then you hear stage four, incurable, inoperable, but treatable.

LOVE: Right.

SHRIVER: How could it be worse than that?

LOVE: Well, this is only in the bone and the fact that she said that makes me think it's probably not in any of the more important organs, like lungs or liver. Your ribs are not your most important organ.

And the -- when cancer comes back, breast cancer comes back in the bone, it's the most treatable. It usually responds very well to treatment and it's not a life-threatening -- immediately life- threatening situation.

The thing -- will the cancer come back again later somewhere else?

It might. And that's what they mean by incurable. It's something she's going to have to be dealing with probably for the rest of her life.

SHRIVER: Sheryl, how much does your breast cancer preoccupy your everyday thinking? How much of it is a part of your life?

CROW: You know, I think, well, for the first six months it was probably every day. The further away I get from it, the more obviously healthy I feel, the happier I become, the more distracted I am from it. And then you hear an announcement like this and certainly it takes you back to the moment that you were diagnosed.

But I've spent a lot of time, actually, in the last year, you know, I wouldn't have volunteered to be a spokesperson for breast cancer but I've spent a lot of time in the last year with breast cancer patients and survivors and also with research doctors. And there's just so much -- so much amazing advancements being made in research. And you just have to hope that with someone like Elizabeth Edwards, that with the genetic there being the molecular experimentation that they're doing, that hopefully in her lifetime we'll see some sort of manageable cure.

But obviously until that time, I'm -- I'm a person who, because I'm visible, I have the opportunity to talk to young women and women my age and even women older about making sure they get mammographies and knowing their breast cancer or knowing their cancer history or their health history in general.

And so it's a part of my life. It's definitely a part of my consciousness and it definitely was kind of like a life chiropractic moment, you know?

It just jerked me into a new, really a new reality.

SHRIVER: Do you agree with Dr. Love, as she was saying before we went to the break, that perhaps we've become a little blase, a little bit glib about breast cancer because we always hear the success stories and people are -- thousands upon thousands of women are walking all across this country and wearing pink armbands and pink shirts and it -- we always see the kind of positive face?

CROW: Well, I mean certainly it -- it's important to be positive. But when you talk about the statistic, one in seven women are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer, it's -- it's amazing. If you put seven of your friends together and you know that in that room one of your is going to have breast cancer.

And it seems to be now, at least in my life, every day that I hear of someone having some form of cancer. And clearly -- and I don't want to be political, but it's really important that we -- we keep our research funding happening, because you have a lot of women who are in under served areas who are not even getting mammographies and those who are that are not covered by health insurance.

And, also, you have amazing research doctors who are going into other fields because there's not the funding. And, clearly, we're in a war and so on and so forth. But it's important to be positive, but it's -- let's not rest on our laurels. Let's not get too confident because even with the environment changing, we're going to see a lot of statistical changes happening. And we're already seeing it in younger women. Breast cancer is a different kind of beast to treat in younger women and there are so many different kinds of breast cancer that it -- we can't be confident -- we can't be too confident about it.

We -- we really have to press on.

SHRIVER: Well, I think you're absolutely right, we can't be confident about it.

When you, Sheryl, after you were diagnosed and when you go in for a check-up and you're given "a clean bill of health," Dr. Love was saying to me that a clean bill of health, to a breast cancer survivor, might not mean the same thing to somebody else who's given a clean bill of health and they have no cancer.

What does it mean to you?

CROW: Well, it's interesting -- and I will say that when I first got diagnosed, the first book that I bought was Susan's book.


CROW: And you do sort of become a -- and I thank you, Susan. I know I can't see you and you can't see me, but I -- I thank you so much for -- for what you do. And you do sort of become a student of cancer. You try to learn as much about it as you can and you arm yourself with knowledge.

And I learned a lot more about cancer than I probably ever would have wanted to learn about it and when I went in and got my six month check-up, my -- they told me that my prognosis was likely benign.

So they don't just say OK, you're cured. It's -- and I don't know if that's sort of a protective way of handling it. But what shows up in my breasts, because I have dense breasts -- a lot of women do -- harder to detect and constant changes, areas that will always be of let's keep an eye on or of concern.

LOVE: Right.

CROW: And so I'm -- I'm not going to walk out every six months and they're going to say you're cured. It's going to be a constant let's keep an eye on this...

SHRIVER: Very...

CROW: You know, let's...

SHRIVER: Can you address what Sheryl is saying, Susan, because, like my daughter said to me today, how could she have said she has a clean bill of health? How could her husband have gone and run for president...

LOVE: Right.

SHRIVER: ... and then today they say it's back?

I don't understand that.

LOVE: Well, the tests we have to monitor people just aren't sensitive enough to find those cells.

CROW: Right.

LOVE: And so that's why we think it's a clean bill of health.

But you never know with breast cancer that you're cured until you die at 95 of a stroke. And then you can say oh, see, I beat breast cancer.

It can always come back.

Now, the longer you go from the time of diagnosis, the less chance that it's going to come back.

SHRIVER: She hasn't gone that long.

LOVE: She hasn't gone that long and that means it's a fairly aggressive cancer. But hopefully it will respond to treatment and -- and she'll go into a remission, at least for a good period of time.

SHRIVER: We will continue talking about the success rate, the survival rate of the hundreds of thousands of women who get diagnosed every year, when we come back here on LARRY KING LIVE.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Elizabeth Edwards is a wonderful and strong woman and I think all of our thoughts and prayers go out to her and to John and their children and their entire family. I admire her optimism and I'm encouraged by her resolve that she's going to continue with her life. And I look forward to seeing her back out on the campaign trail.




J. EDWARDS: I intend to -- 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.


SHRIVER: Welcome back.

Sheryl Crow and Dr. Susan Love are still with us.

And joining them now from Green Bay, Wisconsin, former governor and possible presidential hopeful, Tommy Thompson.

Thompson's family is all too familiar with breast cancer. His mother-in-law died from it and his wife and daughter are both survivors of it.

And Governor Thompson, thank you so much for joining us this evening.


SHRIVER: You can give us the nail...

THOMPSON: Thank you -- first off, thank you for putting this program on. It is absolutely necessary, intended to get the information out on breast cancer. And I really applaud you for what you're doing.

SHRIVER: Well, thank you, Governor Thompson.

Help us understand what goes through the mind of a husband when he is told his wife is diagnosed with breast cancer? Can you tell us what John Edwards might be going through right now?

THOMPSON: Well, first, you go through a period of real anger, because you don't know what's going to come next. You really don't understand why this is happening to your wife.


THOMPSON: And so you really have a -- a sense of anger.

And then you have a sense of why -- why now? Why this? And why -- why should this happen to us? And then you have a sense of real, a real pity for yourself and your family. And then you have a real concern about your wife and how are you going to survive.

And it really becomes a period of almost mourning, because you really don't know what's going to happen.

What happens if I lose my wife?

And what happens to the children and so on?

So there's really a lot of periods of -- of depression, morose and sadness and sorrow. But finally you come to the conclusion that the only way that you can really cope with this is to be able to give strength to your wife and be the best partner that you possibly can be, and to reach out and give her every kind of support and the emotional support that -- because the woman is going through, you know, really a tremendous amount of turmoil.

And I thank Elizabeth Edwards for coming out so openly and so -- and so diplomatically and really speaking out about the truth of breast cancer. And I -- our prayers and our hopes and dreams go to her and her husband, John. We wish nothing but the best for them.

SHRIVER: Governor Thompson, you were saying that the woman goes through a lot of turmoil. But from the way you describe it, the husband does, as well.

Is it possible to run for president of the United States, which is, as you well know, a 24-7 job, stressful, turmoil in and of itself -- can you go through that while you have a wife with stage four cancer?

THOMPSON: You have to be very supportive of your wife. And your wife, in this case, Elizabeth, wants her husband to continue. And I think it would be detrimental if Senator Edwards, John, didn't continue.

I'm sure they had this discussion and knowing the Edwards as well as I do, I am confident that they decided whether or not it would be best for John to -- to not run.

And they came to the conclusion, for both of them, for their satisfaction, because the wife doesn't want to be a drag on the relationship and doesn't want to in any way harm the -- the opportunity for the husband, in this case, John, to do what he wants to do and what he needs to do, and that's continue to run.

So it is difficult, but I am very confident that they sat down and really discussed this as a family and they both came to the conclusion it was best for both of them, for Elizabeth's well being and for John's, to continue on with his quest.

SHRIVER: Your wife has -- is a breast cancer survivor, your daughter. What advice would you give to a man out there today whose wife was diagnosed today or in the last month, the last week, about how to handle this?

THOMPSON: You have to be...

SHRIVER: And what advice do you have for John Edwards?

THOMPSON: Well, John Edwards knows what has to be done because he's been through it already. And this is just a reoccurrence.

what you have to do is be as supportive as you possibly can be and give your wife the kind of attention that she badly needs, because she is going through not only turmoil, but tremendous emotional highs and lows. And she has got to be coping with this every single moment that she's awake.

And she wants, of course, to survive, and we all do. And that is why the husband has really got to reach out and be as supportive as he possibly can be.

And, really, you know, it's difficult but he has to reach out more than ever before to make sure that his wife knows that he is there, loves her, supports her and will continue to do so no matter what happens.

SHRIVER: Governor Thompson, thank you so much.

And our thoughts are with your family, as well.

And I think he speaks on behalf of so many men who are dealing with this for the first time or the second time.

And he'll be back and we'll be back in just a few minutes.

Stay with us.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Senator John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth have announced that she has a recurrence of cancer and that they will still continue a full and vigorous campaign.

First, our thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth Edwards.

Also, as somebody who has 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 follow-up. 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.

And so for Elizabeth Edwards, good going.

Our prayers are with you. (END VIDEO CLIP)


SHRIVER: We are back talking obviously about Elizabeth Edwards. We're joined by Governor Tommy Thompson, Sheryl Crow and Susan Love.

Dr. Love, Tommy Thompson was talking about that John Edwards can go ahead and continue to campaign, that that's the right thing to do even though it's very much on his mind. Can Elizabeth Edwards undergo the treatment she needs to go for stage four cancer and actually campaign in a presidential campaign, which is grueling in and of itself?

LOVE: It depends on which treatment she ends up getting. If her tumor is sensitive to hormones, she may get an additional hormone treatment. That's not very bad and she could probably continue with that. There are some chemotherapies that can actually take orally by mouth. That's not too bad and she might be able to continue with that. If she needs intravenous chemotherapy, then maybe not. So I think...

SHRIVER: We can't underestimate that this is stage four cancer and to think she's going to be out there running around the country with her husband smiling is probably a fantasy, isn't it?

LOVE: Well, it's hard to know because for some people denial is a way of dealing with this whole thing and they do well, actually, just going on and pushing forward with their lives. So I think that's an individual decision and she's going to probably try to do it and she'll soon find out whether she can do it or not.

SHRIVER: Governor Thompson was saying that John Edwards had already dealt with the diagnosis of breast cancer two years ago but aren't we really, in the last 24 hours, a completely different diagnosis than he thought he was dealing with?

LOVE: Yes, because when you're first diagnosed with breast cancer, I mean the majority of woman, 75 percent are cured. And so, you think this is going to be a bad patch. We're going to get through it and then we'll be OK. Now, she really has a chronic disease. Now, she has a disease that's not going to be curable. And eventually she probably will die of something to do with breast cancer and how short or long that is we really don't know.

SHRIVER: Sheryl, when you were diagnosed, did you think I have a curable disease, I'm going to beat this or do you actually look at the numbers of the many women who succumb to breast cancer, or both?

CROW: I absolutely knew I would be cured of it. I had a very small amount of invasive cancer. My prognosis was really good. It was caught so early. In fact, early enough that the radiologist, who I initially went to, said come back in six months, and it was my O.B. who said let's just have it looked at. I did a needle biopsy in both breasts. And it was the breast that was not really of concern that wound to have the invasive cancer.

So I'm sort of a walking poster child for early detection. And until we have a cure, that's really going to the best prevention.

But I never thought that I wasn't going to beat cancer. But you know it still remains the same that when you hear of someone's cancer coming back, immediately you think is this going to be me. But I believe I am cured and I was very, very lucky to be diagnosed so early.

SHRIVER: Governor Thompson, you have children. Tell us a little bit about what goes through the minds of your children when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. What does that do to the family and how critical -- we always hear how critical the family is in coming together. And Edwards certainly seem to have a very strong family.

THOMPSON: Well, the children really rally around. The children are really the support system. And because the mother, and in my case, the wife, really had such a close relationship with her children, it even brought them closer together. The problem was, however, in our family is that my youngest daughter, Tommie, also at the age of 31 came down with breast cancer. And that really brought our family closer together because then we were not only rallying around the mother, my wife, but also a sibling, a daughter, who, you know, should never come down with breast cancer at that young of an age. And that really terrified our family and it really caused tremendous problems. But it really brought our family closer together.

SHRIVER: Governor Thompson was talking about his reaction when he heard about breast cancer. What is the best way to talk to a man when his wife is diagnosed with breast cancer? And for that matter, what's the best way to talk to her? So many people go "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." It seems the Edwards would think that's exactly the wrong reaction.

LOVE: I think what you really want to do is be supportive. And what you have to do is ask the person what you can do to be supportive because everybody's different. And some people really just don't even want to talk about it or think about it. And other people want to process it forever. And there's everything in between.

So I think that the major thing is to be there, to be supportive, to ask what you can do, and to really try to do things that are useful and practical. Very often the most practical thing is something like walking the dog, or picking up the groceries, or taking the kids to soccer, or doing something that will help take the pressure off the family. And I think that's the kind of thing you want to look for do to do.

SHRIVER: And follow the lead of the person that's been diagnosed and their family.

LOVE: Absolutely.

SHRIVER: And according to Elizabeth Edwards and her husband, the show goes on and they will continue to treat everything as normal. So that is a great lesson to families and to women who have been diagnosed again, that they can continue to live -- quote -- "a normal life." So we will continue this conversation right after these messages.


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER: This does not look good, either the size or the shape. And so she was obviously concerned and said that I needed to go immediately and see a doctor about it.

We're actually encouraged as we got more and more test results and right now we feel incredibly optimistic. I expect to do next week all of the things I did last week.




DR. LISA CAREY, ELIZABETH EDWARDS' ONCOLOGIST: Stage four breast cancer is a very heterogeneous thing, you know. Some people, none of the treatments that we use work and so their survival is short. Other people, they can live with it for many years. You know if you think about it, it's like taking, you know, all of you and saying what's the average age. Well, 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.


SHRIVER: You were listening to Elizabeth Edwards' doctor there.

And Dr. Love, a few segments ago, Sheryl crow was saying, "I don't want to get political but, we need to spend more federal money on breast cancer." What should be done that's not being done? What is being done that's exciting, that's on the horizon that might save Elizabeth Edwards in the future?

LOVE: Well, first of all, the money that's going into the National Cancer Institute actually is being cut. And so, we need to be putting more money breast cancer and all cancer research.

Having said that, the benefit from money that's been there and the research that's been going on is that we now have some targeted treatments that are much more specific. We used to give -- chemotherapy is sort of broad. It's like poison. And you hope you can't poison more cancer cells than normal cells. But now there are treatments that just target the actual cancer cell, knock it off without knocking everything else off.

These are still just coming out and we don't know how they're going to work. But some of them may be very good in Elizabeth's situation. And I think they're going to be coming online over the next several years. SHRIVER: You were saying to me earlier that you want to make sure that people understand this did not happen because she had a lumpectomy as opposed to a mastectomy.

LOVE: That's right. You know when you're diagnosed with breast cancer; it's been there, just as Sheryl said, a long time.


LOVE: And thus, the cells are out. They're already out. They don't get out later on. So whether you cut the breast off or do a lumpectomy and radiation, that doesn't change the fact that there are cells already out there. And the reason we do such an aggressive treatment when somebody's first diagnosed is to try to get rid of those cells.

SHRIVER: You were also saying the key is prevention, prevention.

I know Sheryl, you're out talking a lot on this subject. What can people do to try to prevent this from happening in the first place?

CROW: Well, like I said, early detection is so important and knowing your family history. And I really think that women have to be diligent about getting mammograms every year. And if you have dense breasts, then perhaps you get an MRI, which is what I do. And obviously, in the next few years, there's going to be better equipment where dense breasts will be able to be scrutinized more successfully as far as detecting cancer cells.

And you know I also want to encourage women who are afraid to get a mammogram because they're going to be lost in the health care system. I'm doing some work with the Breast Cancer Coalition. And I think a lot of women are afraid to get mammograms who are not insured or they're afraid of what they might find out. And it's imperative as far as being treated that the earlier it's detected the better your treatment is going to be or more successful it will be. And you won't be lost in the cracks, we hope, if you do the research and get into some of the government programs that have already been set up through the Breast Cancer Coalition.

SHRIVER: And particularly to pay attention if it runs in your family. You have to be even more diligent.

CROW: Yes, absolutely.

SHRIVER: And we will continue this conversation. We'll be right back.


SHRIVER: As you mentioned, Elizabeth Edwards' announcement was the talk of the town in Washington, all over the country, for that matter. With us to chat about that now, CNN's "SITUATION ROOM" host Wolf Blitzer. He is in our Washington studio. Also there with him, Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary during the Clinton administration and Republican strategist Amy Holmes.

Thank you all for joining us this evening.

Wolf, let me begin with you. Senator Edwards said he is in this race to stay. How likely is that? What are people really saying?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN's "SITUATION ROOM": Well, everybody believes that he really is intending to stay and he's going to fight not only to try to help his wife, as he made clear today, but also he wants to get that Democratic presidential nomination. I think he and his staff believe they have momentum going in Iowa and New Hampshire. They'll do well in some of those early Democratic contests, maybe even out in Nevada, which is now the second Democratic contest. So, assuming her health stays OK and that they can cope with this serious problem, I think he's in it.

SHRIVER: That's a big "if," assuming her health stays OK. Governor Thompson was just saying that when this happens in your family, you're in turmoil. You know very well what it takes to run a presidential campaign, how you have to be focused on that 24/7 to really be successful in it. Do you think -- are people saying that they think he can manage to do both of these things?

BLITZER: A lot will depend on how she copes with the treatment. If she's going to be strong, if she's going to be robust, how debilitating the treatment might be. Remember they have two little kids as well. And if she can get through this treatment, I think he's making it very clear he's determined. She wants him to do this. I think they want to work on this together. So my gut tells me he's going to have the support, he's going to have the assistance from the rest of his team to continue as long as they possibly can.

SHRIVER: Was there any talk at all -- I heard some rumblings last night that he would drop out, that he would suspend the campaign. Do you hear any of that? Did they talk about that at all?

BLITZER: There was one report, a new political blog,, that earlier in the day inaccurately reported that he was going to suspend his campaign. That happened late in the morning before his news conference. It turned out to be false, obviously.

None of us knew what he was going to do. There was a lot of speculation and a lot of suspicion. He had made it clear, you know, the first time around in 2004 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer that was his priority number one, to stay with his wife and make sure she got through the treatment.

But they made this joint decision. They've gone this far. And he's going to try to do the best he can to continue.

SHRIVER: Dee Dee, what affect do you think this will have on the race, particularly on the women's vote, which is so crucial in this election? And everybody thinks perhaps it's going to Hillary Clinton, yet Elizabeth Edwards is one of the most popular figures out there on the campaign trail. And now women might find themselves identifying with her even more. DEE DEE MYERS, POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think it will very much depend on the course of this disease and on her treatment. In her book, "Saving Graces," it's a very open book. It's a very emotional book in many parts. She talks, you know, compellingly and honestly about her battle with breast cancer.

And one of the things she talks about is how present her husband was throughout that battle and how much she depended on him. When she was up, he was down. And you know she would lift him up. And when she was down, he was always at her side to lift her up. And I think that helped get her through the process. I think people related to that as they read the book and watched her and have seen her talk about that experience.

And I think going forward, as you said Maria, that being a candidate for president takes tremendous energy, tremendous focus. If she's doing well, I think Senator Edwards will move forward. She's every bit as into this campaign. She wants it for all the same reasons that he does. They believe they're trying to change the country. But it will very much depend on this very unpredictable disease.

SHRIVER: Amy, does it make it tougher for a Republican to hit John Edwards because his wife has cancer and people now are somewhat more sympathetic to them as a couple?

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, I don't think so because of what you'll be talking about, policy. You'll be talking about platform later down the road. But I think today is -- you know it's almost unseemly to be politically handicapping how breast cancer might be influencing Edwards' campaign. I think anyone who watched today saw a couple that's very much in love.

I really like what Sheryl Crow had to say earlier in the show, that when a woman gets this diagnosis, that she should do what she loves. Well, we know that Elizabeth Edwards loves her husband and that this is a joint project. They became a public couple over a decade ago. And she's been at his side campaigning alongside of him. So perhaps even the campaign itself is part of her healing with this diagnosis.

SHRIVER: But of course, as she's out on the campaign trail, it will be an issue. People will be talking about the fact that she has breast cancer.

And we'll continue to talk about that in just a minute. But before we go to the break, we're going to take a look at what Republican presidential hopeful John McCain had to say about the Elizabeth Edwards announcement.

His statement reads, "I spoke with Elizabeth Edwards today and shared my heartfelt belief that she serves as an inspiration to the entire nation. Both Cindy and I wish John and Elizabeth the very best. And our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Stay tuned. We'll be right back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

E. EDWARDS: The other thing you do is keep a positive attitude that we had actually before. And you know John was saying that last week people asked him how I was doing. And he said, "She's cancer free." It turned out not to be the truth. But it was that attitude of, you know, we're going to always look for the silver lining. It is who we are as people and we'll continue to do it.



SHRIVER: Today, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a statement about the announcement by rival John Edwards that his wife's cancer had recurred. Here's what Barack Obama had to say.

He said, "Today, Michelle and I join every American in sending our thoughts and prayers to Elizabeth and John and the entire Edwards family. We all admire Elizabeth's strength and determination and the deep love that they so obviously share."

And Dee Dee, let's talk about them as a couple and how important the spouse is in a presidential race. Is she going to be a factor?

MYERS: Well, I think she was a very positive factor in Senator Edwards campaign for the Democratic nomination and then as vice presidential candidate in 2004. Everyone uses the same language in talking about her. She's down to earth. She seems real. She's emotionally accessible. She doesn't seem to let all the hoopla go to her head. She's always been somebody who focuses tremendously on her family, both her older daughter and the younger children who obviously will be a factor as this goes forward.

Three years ago, they were a little young to understand the implications of this. Now, they're older. And so managing their relationship with this is going to be important. But I think -- you know, again, she's been an asset to John Edwards' campaign. She rounds him out in some interesting ways. She makes the family come together in a very real way. And I think she will continue to be an asset going forward. But again it's going to depend very much on the progress of the disease. SHRIVER: Much has been written already about this presidential race and the spouses in it. Amy, what role do you think the spouse plays today? And do people vote for a presidential candidate based on how they feel about their spouse? And if so, how much of a positive asset do you think she is?

HOLMES: I don't think voters vote on the candidate's spouse. But a spouse can be a drag on a candidate if the spouse is not showing up for campaign events, is someone who the public doesn't relate to.

And I think in the case of John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards, especially today, that the spouse can also reflect on the candidate's character. And voters do vote based on character in part, and that John Edwards -- that his approach to this with his wife. The very fact that we're talking about that he would suspend his campaign to take care of his wife again is another indication of the type of serious moral man that he is.

SHRIVER: Does that, Wolf, put character on the front burner in this campaign overnight?

BLITZER: Well, I think there's no doubt, Maria, that in the case of the Democratic frontrunner right now, Senator Hillary Clinton, her spouse has an enormous impact on how people are going to vote. A lot of people are going to vote for Senator Clinton because they love Bill Clinton. Some others will vote against her because they hate Bill Clinton. So clearly in that particular case, the spouse, namely the former president of the United States, has a huge impact.

As far as Elizabeth Edwards is concerned, anybody who watched that news conference in Chapel Hill earlier today where Senator Edwards started and then she followed up. They remained very poised. They took questions followed by the physician who's treating her. You know you couldn't help but be totally moved at how not only articulate but how comfortable they are with each other, how deeply in love they are with each other. I tell you, I just watched it as a regular viewer and I was totally moved. And I think I speak for everyone. We just wish her a very, very speedy recovery.

SHRIVER: But doesn't that, very quickly, put a spotlight on the couple in this race in a way that it wasn't 24 hours ago?

BLITZER: It will. It'll put a little bit of greater attention on the spouses. And that's the way politics is. You know you look at the whole package, if you will. You don't just look at the candidate.

MYERS: I think though it'll be more pressure on the Edwards' than anybody else actually because now the relationship has been opened up a lot. And that's an additional pressure in addition to managing whatever comes down the road.

HOLMES: Sure. And that story then, being a story that's a part of this campaign, her illness.

SHRIVER: Amy, Dee Dee, and Wolf, thank you all so much for joining us. I can't believe we're talking this early about presidential politics, but you guys do it all the time. So there we are. And we're talking about a very brave family and a very brave woman. So I want to take a moment to thank Larry King for letting me sit in here tonight while he's off.


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