WASHINGTON - John Edwards disclosed that his wife, Elizabeth, had breast cancer the day after he lost the vice presidency in the 2004 election. Now his political future may hinge on her health.
The couple planned a news conference in Chapel Hill, N.C., to discuss their plans Thursday, a day after visiting doctors who are monitoring Mrs. Edwards' recovery from the cancer.
Campaign officials refused to answer any questions about what the couple learned at the doctor's appointment or how it might affect Edwards' second presidential bid. Edwards had cut short a trip to Iowa to be with his wife but still attended a barbecue fundraiser Wednesday evening in Chapel Hill, their hometown.
The campaign had said Mrs. Edwards, 57, had a follow-up appointment Wednesday to a routine test she had Monday. The campaign explained that she had similar follow-ups in the past but they always resulted in a clean bill of health.
The campaign refused to describe what happened this time.
Mrs. Edwards discovered a lump in her breast in the final days of the 2004 campaign, when her husband was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. He announced the diagnosis the day after he and presidential nominee John Kerry lost the election to President Bush.
Mrs. Edwards was diagnosed with invasive ductal cancer, the most common type of breast cancer. It can spread from the milk ducts to other parts of the breast and beyond.
She wrote about her life, including her breast cancer treatment, in a book published last year called "Saving Graces." She had surgery and underwent several months of radiation and chemotherapy.
Mrs. Edwards, born in Jacksonville, Fla., grew up between the United States and Japan because of her father's career as a Navy pilot. She met her future husband at University of North Carolina law school.
The Edwardses have been married nearly 30 years and had four children. Their oldest child, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996.
"During the (2004) campaign, people who knew we had lost a son said, 'You are so strong,' and when I had breast cancer people would say, 'You are so strong,' and I thought, 'They don't know that there's a trick to being strong, and the trick is that nobody does it alone,'" she said in an interview with The Associated Press last year. "I wanted, from the perspective of someone going through it, not tell them what to do, but show them what great support I got."
John Edwards has been a strong contender in the 2008 Democratic race, leading in early polls of the important Iowa caucus goers who will cast the first ballots in January. His wife has served as his closest political adviser in both his campaigns.