March 27, 2007

Message to the People: I wish I knew Elizabeth Edwards

 “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” —Mohandas Gandhi    I don’t know Elizabeth Edwards, but I wish I did.    Death makes us reflect. Last week I traveled home to Atlanta for another funeral. It was cancer again. My family is becoming all too familiar with various forms of the disease. During my junior year of college, it claimed my grandfather. Last year, my grandmother was diagnosed with it. While returning to Louisville last week from a professional conference, I received news my cousin Lot had lost his life to the demon.    Lot had been ill since last year, but doctors in his rural hometown could not figure out what ailed him. A few weeks ago, he was finally brought to Atlanta and admitted into the same hospital that cares for my grandmother. I traveled to see him the next week. While home, doctors informed us that Lot had pancreatic cancer and predicted he had only one or two months to live. It was crushing.    I immediately revisited that February night last year when I learned my grandmother had multiple myeloma and the average life expectancy associated with it. I remembered my younger sister crumbling on the hospital’s floor. I remembered feeling as if I had been hit by a truck, but couldn’t openly shed tears. I had to be strong for the Jones women. I had to mobilize. I had to find the best physicians available. I had to fight back! I couldn’t lose my grandmother. Thankfully, earlier this year my grandmother’s doctor happily declared she was in complete remission.    I thought we might figure a way out for Lot, too. Hell, doctors have been wrong before. There had to be something we could do. We’d just fight again. A few weeks would bring better news — we would be blessed with another miracle. He’d definitely be around more than two months. We had time to strategize. I was wrong. Eight days after diagnosis, Lot was dead.    Cancer is a bitch! Those who have it as well as their caregivers know this. Even when you win a round and get a remission break, the possibility of it returning hangs over you like a devilish specter. On the day of my cousin’s funeral, presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth revealed that cancer had returned to wreak a bit more havoc in their lives.    Elizabeth Edwards first underwent treatment for breast cancer after the 2004 campaign in which John was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. Like my grandmom, she went into remission. Now, the beast is back. It has been located in a rib and other parts of her body. Beyond that, doctors have determined her cancer is at an even more advanced stage, though still treatable. Before embarking on his current presidential run, John Edwards pledged that he would not have run unless Elizabeth was in good health. This latest bout with cancer made many wonder if Edwards would pull out of the race. He and Elizabeth had other plans.    Not only did they stay in the race, they did so with a resolve that was nothing short of heroic. Maybe only those of us dealing with cancer could appreciate how magnificent the Edwards were last week. Elizabeth was royal. She was indeed a queen. Staring new rounds of chemotherapy and possible death in the face, she proclaimed this election was “too important” to the country for her baby-faced husband to retreat. The woman was unmoved — she was a rock. Like a warrior, she is living as if she will die tomorrow — I sure hope she lives forever. I am proud of her.    I like John Edwards’ politics and I plan on giving him an even closer look now. To be sure, he — not Obama or Clinton — is the most progressive of the major Democratic candidates. With a woman like Elizabeth in his corner, he has to have other good stuff going on, too.    I don’t know Elizabeth Edwards, but I sure wish I did.    Remember, until next time — have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools.    Dr. Ricky L. Jones is associate professor and chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at U of L. His LEO column appears in the last issue of each month. Contact him at blackvanguard@hotmail.com