Eric Marcus

My Dinner with Elizabeth Edwards

Filed By Eric Marcus | November 29, 2007 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: campaign 2008, Democrats, Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards

No doubt about it, there were breadcrumbs on my dinner companion’s chin. As we discussed the unusually mild late fall evening that made it possible for us to sit under an open sky in the garden of a New York City restaurant, I hoped the crumbs would dislodge themselves. But they didn’t. So although we had only just met, I mentioned the crumbs in the nicest way possible. Given that my dinner companion was the reason that two dozen of us had gathered together to break bread, I thought she would want to know sooner rather than later about the food on her face.

Her two attempts to discreetly wipe away the errant crumbs with her fingers failed to do the job, so I volunteered and used my napkin. “It’s the neuropathy,” she explained. “I can’t always feel things with my fingertips.”

Elizabeth Edwards mentioned her neuropathy in the same offhand way that my friend Suzy, who also suffered from stage IV breast cancer, would have referred to it. It was the same way that my friends who had AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s talked about the side effects of the various toxic AIDS treatments then used to suppress the destructiveness of the disease. It was just a fact of life.

From a distance I had long admired Elizabeth Edwards, although this was my first occasion meeting her. Given that she’s incredibly articulate, smart, and passionate about issues that are important to me, I expected to be impressed. And I was. But up close she’s also warm and artifice-free. Elizabeth seemed like one of us, except that she started her day in North Carolina with another round of chemotherapy. And when the evening ended my partner and I would walk home and Elizabeth would go to a hotel, sleep for a few hours, and fly out (on a commercial airline) early the next morning to another campaign stop, just one more in a long series scheduled through the end of the year.

Elizabeth Edwards is not running for president. But as we all know, the person we choose to spend our life with says a lot about us. Elizabeth and John chose each other decades ago and now Elizabeth is spending some of the precious time she has left working with John to see that he’s elected president. We can only hope that when the time comes for the American people to choose a new president that we choose as wisely as John Edwards did when he chose Elizabeth.

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Very moving, Eric. Thanks.

Your post reminds me of the movie "The American President" where the President, played by Michael Douglas, asks his best friend and chief of staff, played by Martin Sheen, if he would have won the White House if his wife had not died of cancer...

John Edwards has certainly given plenty of reasons for why folks should consider voting for him --- but, as you point out, the fact that she chose and has stayed with his wonderfully outspoken wife Elizabeth surly attests to his character.

You know, I waffle back and forth about flipping to Edwards. But if I could vote for Elizabeth? Hands down. She'd have my vote in a heartbeat. I admire her a lot.

Eric, You said of Elizabeth Edwards' neuropathy "It was the same way that my friends who had AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s talked about the side effects of the various toxic AIDS treatments then used to suppress the destructiveness of the disease. It was just a fact of life."

There are many of us in the 2000s who still have these side effects and, as we grow older with the toxic meds that keep us alive, new and debilitating side effects impact our daily lives. All I want you and anyone who reads this to know is, yes, we are grateful to be survivors yet the implications of this disease as we reach our 50s, 60s, and hopefully, our 70s and 80s are scary and unknown. No one thought we'd live this long; therefore, no one really understands the toll these medicines take on our bodies. So, as we celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1st, don't think for a moment that there has been a cure. Don't think for a moment living with AIDS in the United States is a thing of the past. HIV/Aids unfortunately is still with us and the long-term effects are much like a science fiction novel.

Elizabeth Edwards is a fighter, but it is none the less Stage IV cancer. She doesn't need all the stress, but I do admire her.

John, You are absolutely right and my comments would lead readers to think that I think AIDS is a thing of the past. It certainly is not and I know that for my friends who have been living with HIV/AIDS every day that neuropathy (and all of the other side effects of both the disease and the medications used to treat it) are an everyday experience and concern.

No matter what, it'll end up in lives cut short. While we spend untold billions in Iraq, we can't find the funding to find a cure for AIDS or cancer. :(