I was still digesting the shocking news about Elizabeth Edward's breast cancer recurrence when the other bad news about White House spokesman Tony Snow's recurrence of colon cancer hit the news.
For those of us with cancer in our past, seeing and hearing our own private nightmare projected on the national screen can't help but bring back our own fears. I'm not saying we are not empathetic, just the opposite. Because we are so tuned into the devastating impact of a recurrence, hearing that it happened to someone we don't know personally, but only from their public appearances, or by reading a book they wrote, or watching them on CNN, makes it seem like it is happening to one of our close friends or relatives.
In fact, I realize that cancer empathy transcends politics. Elizabeth Edwards, a prominent Democrat, is an enormously appealing woman. Even before her breast cancer diagnosis, I admired her courage to go one with her life after the loss of her son-the worst tragedy that can befall any parent, in my opinion. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time, it seemed so unfair. How much should any one person or family have to endure? Prominent Republican Tony Snow, on the other hand, is not someone I have much in common with-yet I feel just as bad about him. I may not agree with his politics, but nobody deserves his fate. Before we are Democrats or Republicans, we are all humans. And, unfortunately, we all live with the specter of cancer disrupting our daily lives.
There has been a lot of hoopla over John Edwards' decision to continue to run for president while his wife undergoes treatment for metastatic breast cancer. While I found the decision puzzling at first, I have come to think differently about it over the last few days. It's nobody's business but their own. No one else should judge what someone chooses to do when they learn that their life span may be extremely limited. Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow didn't ask to be our cancer recurrence role models. It's not a job anyone of us would willingly choose. They may be public figures, but their private cancer nightmare belongs to them and their loved ones.
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