Like most people, I am no stranger to cancer.
My paternal grandmothers (note the plural), my mother's college roommate, my uncle and Godfather, Scott's grandfather. A million friends-of-friends. I am familiar with cancer survivors, - and, yes, cancer deaths.
I've never met her, but I would have liked to. Across the television, Elizabeth Edwards seemed to be a quietly confident woman, perhaps guarded and cautious, but stubbornly poised. I admired her education and career, her children, and - yeah - her marriage.
Until I didn't admire her husband anymore.
To be honest, her personal devastation and the destruction of her marriage made me admire her more, as a human. Her answer, when infamously asked if she was still in love with John ("It's complicated") is such a remarkable moment. The way that she handled herself in public after her husbands public affair is a feat of - I dunno - gumption maybe? I wouldn't have blamed her if she would have smeared him from Washington to North Carolina and back. But of course, she didn't.
It's kind of strange that we all knew of her diagnosis, her medicial secrets, without knowing the real Elizabeth. While the world knew that her prognosis was not good, there was something about her that made me think she would survive, that she could beat this. Was it her resolve? Her poise? Her strength? I can't put my finger on it, but if anyone could "stand up to cancer", surely it would have been her.
But that's the problem with cancer: it's the bully that no one can stand up to, no one is safe from.
But Elizabeth, if I can be bold enough to say, didn't expect to control it. I read a quote by her tonight (apparantly from one of her books) and it's succinct, beautiful and epitaph-esque:
"I do know that when [my children] are older and telling their own children about their grandmother, they will be able to say that she stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way –and it surely has not–she adjusted her sails".
Her list of storms is lengthy: She lost her 16 year old son. She was diagnosed with terminal, incurable cancer. Her husband made mockery of her marriage, and publicly humiliated her and her children.
And she adjusted her sails - living life - and death - her way.
Here's to you, Elizabeth. And here's to adjusting the sails.