Just a few hours after her husband and his running mate gave up their quest for the White House on Wednesday, Elizabeth Edwards was told by a Boston surgeon that she has breast cancer, a spokesman announced yesterday.
Edwards, the wife of Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), received the diagnosis at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston shortly after Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) conceded the 2004 election in a speech at historic Faneuil Hall.
Elizabeth Edwards is "resolute" about beating her breast cancer and then "moving on with her life," a longtime friend says.
Video: Elizabeth Edwards Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
Elizabeth Edwards, 55, discovered a lump in her right breast last week, and during a visit to her family physician in Raleigh last Friday she was told it appeared to be cancerous, said David Ginsberg, a family spokesman.
Barbara L. Smith, head of the Boston hospital's Gillette Center for Women's Cancers-Center for Breast Cancer, performed a needle biopsy and found that Edwards has invasive ductal cancer, Ginsberg said. It is the most common type of breast cancer, originating in cells that line the milk ducts.
Edwards was awaiting further test results to determine the extent of the cancer, known in medical terms as "staging," Ginsberg said. Physicians not involved with Edwards's care said it is likely she will undergo surgery within a week and then radiation, chemotherapy or both.
Friends of the bubbly Edwards said the timing of the news -- coming at the end of a grueling year-long campaign -- was almost too much for them to bear.
"I just cried and cried," said Ellan Maynard, who has been close to Edwards for more than a decade. "After I quit blubbering, she told me to buck up and not be a baby."
In their phone call yesterday morning, Maynard said, Edwards was "resolute" about tackling her cancer and then "moving on with her life."
Edwards hinted at a minor medical problem in the closing days of the campaign but never let on how serious it was, said her younger brother Jay Anania.
"In a dark moment, she's the person who makes things right," he said, explaining that Edwards uses a form of "triage" to tackle one challenge at a time. "There's not an ounce of self-pity."