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Survivor tells story in Vail Valley

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyVail events: "Resiliance," which landed at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list at the end of May, is a meditation on Elizabeth Edwards' life after learning about her husband's affair and the resurgence of her incurable cancer
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VAIL, Colorado – “Resilience” is a fitting title for the latest book by Elizabeth Edwards, who will speak in the Vail Valley Tuesday. Over the years, her courage has been tested again and again.

First, when her 16-year-old son, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996.

Eight years later, Elizabeth was diagnosed with breast cancer, just days before the 2004 presidential election in which her husband, John, was running for vice president.

After surgery, chemo and radiation, the cancer went away – for a time, at least. In 2007 doctors told her the cancer had returned. She is living with stage 4 cancer that has metastacized to her bones and other organs.

Most recently the Edwards’ have made headlines again – this time for John’s infidelity, and for Elizabeth’s book that in small part talks about the affair.

Elizabeth is in town this week. She is the keynote speaker at the 15th annual Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group Luncheon, held Tuesday at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek.

“As you know, her new book is called ‘Resilience,’ and we found her to be very admirable in the way she has lived her life and continues to live her life with the personal obstacles she has had to overcome,” said Brenda Himelfarb, co-founder of the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group.

“Resiliance,” which landed at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list at the end of May, is a meditation on Elizabeth’s life after learning about her husband’s affair and the resurgence of her incurable cancer. It’s clear that she finds writing theraputic – her first book, “Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers” in 2006, focused mainly on Wade’s death and her cancer.

“I think the writing in some ways was theraputic,” Elizabeth said in a phone interview from her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. “I know I’ve gotten a lot of criticism, but I actually wrote this with my children in mind.”

And indeed, countless bloggers and columnists, including two from The Washington Post and The New York Times, have harshly criticized her for making the family’s trials and tribulations public. But her two youngest children, Jack, 9, and Emma Claire, 11, aren’t “blind and deaf,” Elizabeth said.

“They know everything that’s going on,” she said. “They have computers, they see the Internet. All these things are painful. This comes as no surprise to them, but I hope this gives them a more hopeful, positive story.

“My hope is I will have successfully written a letter they can have long after I’ve died about what this family means to me,” Elizabeth said.

The couple’s oldest daughter, Cate, 27, read the book before it was published.

“She’s been fine about (the book),” Elizabeth said. “Though she was off at school for a lot of the time, she knew what was going on.”

Other than some grammatical corrections, Cate didn’t want her mother to change anything in the book, Elizabeth said.

Attendees at Tuesday’s luncheon can expect Elizabeth to touch on her own breast cancer fight and what’s gotten her through the struggles she’s faced – “It’s really important to not be a victim,” she said.

“Now that I’ve written a few books I always worry that people in the audience will have read them and I won’t have anything new to say, but fortunately there’s always a little bit more to tell and hopefully there’s something in the delivery,” she said.

Right now Elizabeth gets chemotherapy every two weeks. And even though her cancer is considered terminal, she’s staying very busy. She has at least one or two speaking engagements each month this summer and is opening a new business – a furniture store near her home in Chapel Hill. MSNBC recently reported that the store will be called Red Window and open in October.

“I live right near furniture capital country and I go all the time,” she said. “I don’t need any more furniture in my house, so this is a continued excuse to keep going.”

That live-life-to-the-fullest attitude is in part of why Himelfarb and the other organizers decided to bring Elizabeth to town.

“What’s really interesting about Mrs. Edwards is she lives her life so thoroughly,” Himelfarb said. “And it’s not that nothing affects her, but she’s very focused on working and producing and living a full life …. That’s what I find admirable.”

What: Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group Celebration of Life Luncheon

Where: Gerald Ford Hall, Park Hyatt, Beaver Creek

When: Silent auction begins at 11 a.m. followed by Elizabeth Edwards’ book signing. The book will be on sale at the event. The luncheon begins at noon.

Cost: $100, but tickets for the event are sold out

More information: http://www.vailbreastcancerawarenessgroup.org or call 970-479-8595

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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