Elizabeth and I

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I want to follow up on Ana’s post about my encounter with Ellizabeth Edwards last night. I’ve known John and Elizabeth Edwards since I wrote about his Senate race nine years ago. I’ve always liked and admired them both. And, as I think was clear from a piece I wrote about Elizabeth in 2004, I’m among those who consider Mrs. Edwards every bit her husband’s equal, and in some cases his better, as a politician and public speaker. She is also incredibly warm and real.

I had already spoken briefly to Senator Edwards last night when, during a break in the dinner, Ana pulled me into a conversation with Mrs. Edwards. She was, as Ana said, very gracious. She told me she had been upset by what I’d written about their decision to keep campaigning, despite the recurrence of her cancer, but she also said, as her husband has publicly, that she understood why people had different opinions about it. She joked about wanting to slug me, and (with encouragement from Tammy Haddad) balled up her fist and held it up to my chin, laughing as she did.

A lot of readers disagreed with my article and posts about the Edwards’ decision. Others, a minority, had reactions similar to mine. I’ve thought a lot about it since then. Contrary to what some readers suspect, I have a fair amount of experience with cancer in my family. My mother is a cancer survivor; my two grandmothers succumbed to it, one of them fairly young. My point was never that Elizabeth Edwards should go hide in a room and wait to die just because her cancer had returned. She has more than one option for living a full life. She and her husband chose to continue pursuing the White House. As I’ve said before but feel even more strongly after talking with Mrs. Edwards about her children last night, I do believe they made the right decision for themselves. At a personal level, that’s all that matters. The politics of it will be what they will be.

We named Elizabeth Edwards one of the TIME 100 because she has become a symbol of strength for so many people battling and living with cancer. It’s a great choice. She’s a strong, smart, compelling woman. And, as I saw again last night, she handles herself with remarkable grace and wit.