Elizabeth Edwards and Oprah
Photo: Rob Howard
She has buried a child, withstood an excruciatingly public blow to her marriage, and been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But in a warm, intimate, and startlingly honest discussion with Oprah, Elizabeth Edwards leaves no doubt that she is standing tall.
Here's a sneak peek. Read more in the June 2009 issue of O, on newsstands May 19th.

Nestled amid majestic pine trees near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, sits Elizabeth Edwards's dream home: the 28,200-square-foot property she and her family moved into in 2006, four months before her husband, John Edwards, announced his run for president. Though the house is enormous, there's nothing ostentatious about it. "We're not fancy people," Elizabeth tells me as we settle in on a sofa in the living room. "All we need is a comfortable place to sit and have a conversation." Of course, little did she know as she was making plans for the house how painful some of the conversations taking place here would prove to be. — Oprah

Oprah: You're doing well?
Elizabeth: I'm doing pretty well. I mean, you watch the news; there are so many stories of incredible hardship that it's hard to sit in this house—even with the things I face—and think, "Boy, my life really stinks." It doesn't.
Oprah: Your prognosis is...what?
Elizabeth: You know, they don't really tell you.
Oprah: Are you in pain?
Elizabeth: I'm not. But you know, I'm 60 this summer. I get achy sometimes, with two little kids. So it's hard to tell whether that's something to do with cancer or not.

Oprah: But you don't feel sick.
Elizabeth: I don't. I just get worn out.
Oprah: It was during this last presidential campaign that you were given the new diagnosis, that it was terminal. And the first thing you did was...
Elizabeth: Cry. I admit it. We were sitting in a little room in the hospital, and it was hard not to break down. But then we said we're going to keep pushing. You can fight for yourself or you can just throw your hands up and say, "Okay, I'm through. I'll just wait to die."
Oprah: At the time, I thought, how brave of you to take that on—to keep going with the longest campaign anybody's ever seen. And now that I've read Resilience, I see you already knew your husband had had an affair.
Elizabeth: I knew there'd been a night. That's all I knew. And I'd been around politicians long enough to figure there were a lot of people for whom there'd been a night.

Oprah:  How did you find out?
Elizabeth: John told me.
Oprah: After he had been discovered by the tabloids?
Elizabeth: Most of it he told me before. He was gradually more forthright with me as he was more confident that he wasn't going to lose the life he cherished. Then after the tabloid stuff, a few more things came out. I think we went through a process over the summer of 2008.
Oprah:  Did you want to know every detail?
Elizabeth: Yes. I'm a puzzle doer. I had some pieces of the puzzle, and I felt it was going to make sense if I had all the pieces. You know, I once read a short story about how much you could tell about people from their shoes. You could tell where they had been, what they did, whether they were real walkers. So sometimes I wanted to know a detail because I was just curious, and sometimes I wanted to know a detail because I thought it was going to open some window for me to try to understand. 

Oprah:  Did you want to know whether he loved her?

Elizabeth: I'm sure I asked, but it seemed impossible to me. And I think impossible to him. This person is very different from me, and really very different from him. We're basically old-fashioned people. I remember the first time we went shopping for a jacket for him, and when I pulled one out, he said, "That seems a little loud to me." I said, "It's herringbone!"
Oprah:  As toned down as it gets!
Elizabeth: That's right. So this was a pretty big leap for him. Maybe its being so different is what was attractive.

The conversation continues in the June 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, on sale May 19th.

Read our 2007 profile of Elizabeth Edwards here



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