Elizabeth Edwards’ legacy is shaped by her remarkable courage in fighting breast cancer

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, died Tuesday and is now being remembered for the determination she showed in her battle against breast cancer.

Columnist Nicole Brochu of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes of Edwards, who had been open about discussing her illness ever since she was diagnosed in 2004: “Even in her last days, according to the ‘Today Show,’ when she made the difficult decision to stop treatment for a disease that was ravaging other parts of her body, she told friends she didn’t want to be thought of as someone who ‘lost’ her battle with cancer, but as someone who succeeded in living a good life.”

Those last days can be defining for patients -- and family members. offers this essay that provides a glimpse, just a bit, into what patients face at the end of their battle. It says: “But when the cancer is advancing despite all efforts, the physical, emotional, and financial cost of treatment can exhaust you and all those close to you. ‘Enough,’ your body and your family may be saying, though not in so many words, and you may sense their feelings. Realizing that you’ve reached the limit can increase your anger, depression, despair, and confusion. You may feel helpless to make your last wishes come true.”

Cancer.Net offers this advice to loved ones: “It is often difficult to remain objective when a family member or friend suddenly stops his or her treatment. However, the decision whether to receive treatment or stop treatment belongs to them. It may be helpful to focus on their needs and not your own when you talk with them about their decision.”


And follows this step-by-step process to help family members and caregivers prepare for the death of a loved one. “We salute you for all you have done to surround your loved one with understanding care, to provide your loved one with comfort and calm, and to enable your loved one to leave this world with a special sense of peace and love.”

Brochu adds in her column: “Through endless interviews, public speaking engagements and books detailing her struggle with her son’s death and her own mortality, she exposed a dignity, strength, even optimism that never seemed to tire.”