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Elizabeth Edwards speaks, gently, on her cancer, husband's affair

September 22, 2008 |  5:52 pm

Elizabeth Edwards says she is still confronting the reality of last month's public disclosure of her husband's affair with a campaign worker two years ago.

"It's not a process that you get through," Edwards says during a touching exclusive interview with Patricia Anstett of the Detroit Free Press.

The family of Elizabeth and John Edwards

"Certainly in the time frame we're talking about. It's an ongoing process of finding your feet again, retelling your story to yourself. You thought you were living in one novel, and it turns out you were living in another."

Edwards, who revealed during her husband's unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last winter that her cancer had returned, confides that trust is "the most difficult hurdle" to overcome.

But the 59-year-old mother, faced with her ongoing cancer treatments and the medical reality that she may not be around, says she's tried to focus entirely on "the best thing for my children."

And in her mind that means to lie low and allow public interest in the scandal to subside.

"My concern at the present time," she added in her 45-minute telephone interview with Anstett, "is that these children can live with their father being an advocate for poverty, not for this current picture of him to be the one they carry with them, as young people and as adults."

The couple have three children -- Cate, 26, Emma Claire, 10, and Jack, 8. A fourth child, Wade, was killed in an auto accident at 16.

Edwards is resuming her breast cancer awareness advocacy next month with a speech in the Detroit area and will later testify before Congress. She acknowledges that, like many women, she postponed mammograms for eight years, despite a suspicious spot, citing her busy life as the excuse.

Asked if she had forgiven her husband for his affair with Rielle Hunter, Edwards replied, "I don't want to feed the monster, if you don't mind."

Anstett's story is here. Excerpts from the interview are here. And audio excerpts of the interview are here.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo: Edwards family