"Her cancer is back," said John Edwards, 53. "We are very optimistic. The key is to keep your head up, keep moving, be strong." Edwards also intends to continue his 2008 Democratic presidential bid.
Elizabeth Edwards, 57, a mother of four, had suffered from breast cancer but was believed to be in remission. Now that it has "moved from the breast to the bone," she is "no longer curable," said her husband.
But, he emphasized, "It is completely treatable. ... Many patients have lived many years after treatment. She will not be cured ... like diabetes, it will never go away."
Elizabeth said: "I'm absolutely ready for this. I don't look sickly, I don't feel sickly. I'm ready as any person can be for this." She's been told by her doctors – who diagnosed her with stage IV metastatic cancer – to expect that chemotherapy and other medication might make her tired.
But with a mother's knowing chuckle, she noted that she has a 6-year-old and 8-year-old at home. "If I get tired, I expect they'll be the reason," not medication, she said.
How her body will react to any treatment cannot be predicted. Her oncologist, Dr. Lisa Carey, said, "Unfortunately, we don't know until we give therapy exactly how hers will go."
As for John Edwards's future plans, "I intend to do what I've always done with Elizabeth," he said. "We've been together every step of the way."
This includes his run for the White House. "The campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly," he said, adding that he and Elizabeth had discussed the issue. "You can go in the corner and hide, or you can go out there and be tough," he said. "We have no intention of cowering in the corner."
The couple – who met at University of North Carolina law school – have been married nearly 30 years and had four children: Cate, 25, Emma, 8, and Jack, 6. Their eldest, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996, when he was 16.
In her announcement, Elizabeth Edwards said that their kids have been informed of her new condition. "They have the same hopeful attitude that we have," she said, joking that they expressed disappointment that she is not expected to lose her hair with the upcoming current round of treatment.
Thursday's announcement came a day after Elizabeth Edwards visited doctors who have been monitoring her recovery from the breast cancer that was first diagnosed in 2004. Her condition was announced publicly the day after her husband lost his bid to become U.S. Vice President on the John Kerry ticket, and last year doctors had given her a clean bill of health.
On Wednesday, John Edwards cut short a trip to Iowa to be with his wife but still attended a barbecue fund-raiser that evening in Chapel Hill, their hometown, the Associated Press reported.
It was during the final days of the 2004 campaign that Elizabeth Edwards discovered a lump in her breast, later diagnosed as 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.