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Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers
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Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers

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by Elizabeth Edwards
 

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She charmed America with her smart, likable, down-to-earth personality as she campaigned for her husband, then vice-presidential candidate John Edwards. She inspired millions as she valiantly fought advanced breast cancer after being diagnosed only days before the 2004 election. She touched hundreds of similarly grieving families when her own son, Wade, died

Overview

She charmed America with her smart, likable, down-to-earth personality as she campaigned for her husband, then vice-presidential candidate John Edwards. She inspired millions as she valiantly fought advanced breast cancer after being diagnosed only days before the 2004 election. She touched hundreds of similarly grieving families when her own son, Wade, died tragically at age sixteen in 1996. Now she shares her experiences in Saving Graces, an incandescent memoir of Edwards’ trials, tragedies, and triumphs, and of how various communities celebrated her joys and lent her steady strength and quiet hope in darker times.

Edwards writes about growing up in a military family, where she learned how to make friends easily in dozens of new schools and neighborhoods around the world and came to appreciate the unstinting help and comfort naval families shared. Edwards’ reminiscences of her years as a mother focus on the support she and other parents offered one another, from everyday favors to the ultimate test of her own community’s strength—their compassionate response to the death of the Edwards’ teenage son, Wade, in 1996. Her descriptions of her husband’s campaigns for Senate, president, and vice president offer a fascinating perspective on the groups, great and small, that sustain our democracy. Her fight with breast cancer, which stirred an outpouring of support from women across the country, has once again affirmed Edwards’ belief in the power of community to make our lives better and richer.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Reader Praise for Saving Graces

“I feel as if I’ve just had a long heart-to-heart with a wonderful new friend. Your writing is so open and engaging, truly.” 
— Louisa Dykstra, Des Moines, IA 

“I admire your continued courage, wisdom, and generosity. You are truly an inspiration.”
— Peggy Abrams, Raleigh, NC

“I wept when I read about your son Wade, and I can't even imagine how you felt when you discovered your breast cancer. But you are a survivor. Your strength is an inspiration to me. Thank you.”
— Amy Manata, Skokie, IL

“I have taken so much wisdom from your words and those of your husband. Life is full of heartache. But life is such a wonderful tapestry of colors, grays and oranges, sad ones, happy ones. . . “
— Priscilla Harcourt, Tewksbury, MA

“You are an inspiration and not simply because of your own courage but because you lead us to other heroes. You show me the hero that is your son and the hero that is my mother.”
— Carina Ost, Los Angeles, CA

“It is you who deserves our graces. You showed the world how to be strong, courageous, and most of all determined.”
— Eddie Alexander, San Mateo, CA

“You have been an inspiration to me because of your grace and consideration to all of us who support your battle against breast cancer as well as your obvious humanity and ability to speak to us as though we were in your living room.”
— Ellen E. Schaefer, Eugene, OR

For many readers, the phrase "campaign memoir" brings an involuntary cringe. But Elizabeth Edwards's Saving Graces is no hasty post-election concoction, even though her husband is Senator John Edwards, the losing vice presidential candidate in the 2004 race. The experiences recounted in this autobiography reflect the mature reflections of a gifted woman. This former lawyer writes frankly about the tragic 1996 loss of her teenage son, Wade, and the sustenance that she and John received from family, friends, and even strangers. She also writes candidly about her 2004 fight against advanced breast cancer, which first surfaced just days before Election Day.
Juliet Wittman
This is a compassionate and insightful book that will help many people facing illness or bereavement.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The breast cancer diagnosis Edwards received on November 3, 2004, is dismayingly common. Uncommon, however, is the timing and the circumstances surrounding it. Wife of the vice presidential candidate John Edwards, Edwards's discovery of the lump on her breast came the day after the election and subsequent defeat of the Kerry-Edwards ticket. This mixture of the common and the uncommon, of the everyday and the extraordinary, defines Edwards and her life. A lawyer, mother of a grown daughter and two young children, and the wife of a politician, Edwards is both an optimist and a realist with the ability to laugh at herself. Yet she has had to endure a parent's worst nightmare the death of her teenage son, Wade, in a car accident. In the end, however, Edwards's memoir is not about cancer, politics or even unbearable loss (though the description of her grief is heart-wrenching). It's about the value of people coming together to support each other. You'll find no celebrity gossip here. But like the kiss on the forehead her husband gave her at the end of their first date, this memoir is disarmingly moving. First serial to People, second serial to Ladies' Home Journal; feature in Good Housekeeping; national author tour; October 2 appearances on The Today Show and NBC Nightly News. (Sept. 26) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780767925389
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/14/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
901,972
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt



Saving Graces


Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers


By Elizabeth Edwards


Broadway


Copyright © 2006

Elizabeth Edwards

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7679-2537-8



Chapter One


KENOSHA

October 21, 2004

My face was tilted toward the stream of water from the shower-head. Water
spilled from the corners of my closed eyes as my fingers outlined the unfamiliar
lump in my right breast. Around and around again, I traced its edges. Try as I
might, it wouldn't go away. How could I have missed something this size when I
showered yesterday? Or the day before? Or ... but it didn't matter. I'd found
it today, this lump, firm and big on the side of my breast. I kept my eyes
closed and finished rinsing my hair.

Until that moment-until the lump-October 21, 2004, was meant to be an ordinary
day, if such a thing can exist on a campaign trail two weeks before a
presidential election. An 11:00 A.M. town hall meeting at the Kenosha United
Auto Workers hall. A rally later that day in Erie, Pennsylvania. Scranton in
time for dinner, and Maine by sunrise the next morning. I would speak to at
least two thousand people, prepare to tape a segment for Good Morning
America
, discuss Medicare premiums with senior citizens, talk college
tuition with parents, and, if it was a very good day, influence at least a few
undecided voters. Just another ordinary day.

But I had learned long ago that it was typicallythe most ordinary days that the
careful pieces of life can break away and shatter. As I climbed out of the
shower, I heard the door to my hotel room click shut. I knew instantly who it
was, and I was relieved. "Hargrave," I called out from the bathroom, wrapping
myself in a towel, "come feel this." Hargrave McElroy was my dear friend of
twenty-three years, my daughter Cate's godmother, a teacher at the high school
my children had attended, and now my assistant and companion on the road. She
had agreed to travel with me after John had been named the Democratic vice
presidential nominee. I had previously chased away a couple of well-intentioned
young assistants who aroused my desire to parent them instead of letting them
take care of me, which was wearing me out. I needed a grown-up, and I asked
Hargrave to join me. She had no experience on campaigns, but she was a teacher
and what's more, the mother of three boys. That's enough experience to handle
any job. Choosing Hargrave was one of the best decisions I would make. She
instinctively knew when to buy more cough drops, when to hand me a fresh Diet
Coke, and, I now hoped, what to do after one discovers a lump in her breast.

Hargrave pressed her fingers against the bulge on my right breast, which felt as
smooth and firm as a plum. She pressed her lips together and looked at me
directly and gently, just like she was listening to a student in one of her
classes give the wrong answer. "Hmmm," she said, calmly meeting my eyes. "When
was your last mammogram?"

I hated to admit it, but it had been too long, much too long. For years, I had
made all the excuses women make for not taking care of these things-the two
young children I was raising, the house I was running. We had moved to
Washington four years earlier, and I had never found a doctor there. Life just
always seemed to get in the way. All lousy excuses, I knew, for not taking care
of myself.

"We better get that checked out as soon as we can," Hargrave said.

I had a feeling she meant that very morning, but that was not going to be
possible. We had less than two weeks before the election. Undoubtedly people had
already gathered in the union hall to listen to the speakers scheduled before
me, and there were young volunteers setting up for a town hall in Erie, and-as
the King of Siam said in the musical-"et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." My lump
would have to wait; the ordinary day would go on as scheduled. Except for one
thing. Today, I planned to go shopping.

The previous evening, I had spotted an outlet mall on our way to the hotel. We
had spent the night in a Radisson-a fact I discovered that morning when I read
the soap in the bathroom. Since I started campaigning, it had been a different
hotel in a different city each night. We would arrive late, traveling after it
was too late to campaign, and we would enter and exit most hotels through the
same back door used to take out the trash. Unless the trash dumpster bore the
name of the hotel, I'd figure out where we were only if I remembered to look at
the soap in the bathroom.

As soon as we spotted the outlets, Hargrave, Karen Finney-my press
secretary-and I started calculating. The stores would open at ten, and it was a
ten-minute drive to the UAW hall. That left about forty-five minutes to shop. It
wasn't a lot of time, but for three women who hadn't been shopping in months, it
was a gracious plenty. Despite the lump and everything it might mean, I had no
intention of changing our plan. We had all been looking forward to the
unprecedented time devoted to something as mindless, frivolous, and selfish as
shopping. The clothes I had in my suitcase that day were basically the same ones
I had packed when I left Washington in early July, and it was now nearing
November in Wisconsin. It was cold, I was sick of my clothes, and, to be honest,
I wasn't particularly concerned about the lump. This had happened before, about
ten years earlier. I had found what turned out to be a harmless fibrous cyst. I
had it removed, and there were no problems. Granted, this lump was clearly
larger than the other, but as I felt its smooth contour, I was convinced this
had to be another cyst. I wasn't going to allow myself to think it could be
anything else.

In the backseat of the Suburban, I told Hargrave how to reach Wells Edmundson,
my doctor in Raleigh. With the phone pressed to her ear, she asked me for the
details. No, the skin on my breast wasn't puckered. Yes, I had found a small
lump before.

At the Dana Buchman outlet, I looked through the blazers as Hargrave stood
nearby, still on the phone to Wells. I spotted a terrific red jacket, and I
waved to Hargrave for her opinion. "The lump was really pretty big," she said
into the phone while giving me a thumbs-up on the blazer. There we were, two
women, surrounded by men with earpieces, whispering about lumps and flipping
through the sales rack. The saleswomen huddled, their eyes darting from the
Secret Service agents to the few customers in the store. Then they huddled
again. Neither of us looked like someone who warranted special
protection-certainly not me, flipping through the racks at manic speed, watching
the clock tick toward 10:30. Whatever worry I had felt earlier, Hargrave had
taken on. She had made the phone calls; she had heard the urgent voices on the
other end. She would worry, and she would let me be the naive optimist. And I
was grateful for that.

She hung up the phone. "Are you sure you want to keep going?" she asked me,
pointing out that our schedule during the remaining eleven days until the
election entailed stops in thirty-five cities. "It could be exhausting."
Stopping wasn't going to make the lump go away, and exhaustion was a word I had
long ago banished from my vocabulary.

"I'm fine," I said. "And I'm getting this red blazer."

"You're braver than I am," she told me. "From now on, I will always think of
that blazer as the Courage Jacket." Within minutes, she was back on the phone
with Kathleen McGlynn, our scheduler in D.C., who could make even impossible
schedules work, telling her only that we needed some free time the next Friday
for a private appointment.

While I bought a suit and that red jacket, Hargrave set up an appointment with
Dr. Edmundson for the next week, when we were scheduled to return to Raleigh.
Through the phone calls and despite her worry, she still found a pale pink
jacket that suited her gentle nature perfectly. All the plans to deal with the
lump were made, and the appointments were days away. I wanted to push it all
aside, and thanks to Hargrave and the thirty-five cities in my near future, I
could. We gathered Karen and headed out for that ordinary day.

The town hall meeting went well-except at one point I reversed the names of
George Bush and John Kerry in a line I had delivered a hundred times, a mistake
I had never made before and never made after. "While John Kerry protects the
bank accounts of pharmaceutical companies by banning the safe reimportation of
prescription drugs, George Bush wants to protect your bank account...." I got
no further, as the crowd groaned, and one old man in the front good-naturedly
shouted out that I'd gotten it backwards. "Oops." I said it again, right this
time, and we had a good laugh. I looked at Hargrave and rolled my eyes. Was this
how it would be for the next week? Fortunately, it was not. We flew to an icy
Pennsylvania, where the two town halls went well enough, or at least without
event. I had my legs again. And then on to Maine for the following day.

I could tell by the look on the technician's face that it was bad news. Hargrave
and I-and the Secret Service agents-had ridden to Dr. Edmundson's office as
soon as we landed back in Raleigh the following week, just four days before the
election. I had told Karen and Ryan Montoya, my trip director on the road, about
the lump, and the Secret Service agents knew what was going on because they were
always there, though they never mentioned a word about it to me or to anyone
else. Ryan had quietly disappeared to my house in Raleigh, and the Secret
Service agents respectfully kept a greater distance as Hargrave led me inside. I
was lucky because Wells Edmundson was not only my doctor, he was our friend. His
daughter Erin had played soccer with our daughter Cate on one of the teams that
John coached over the years. His nurse, Cindy, met me at the back door and led
me to Wells' office, dotted with pictures of his children.

"I don't have the equipment here to tell you anything for certain," Wells said
after examining the lump. Ever the optimist, he agreed that the smooth contour I
felt could be a cyst, and ever the cautious doctor, he ordered an immediate
mammogram. His attitude seemed so very positive, I was more buoyed than worried.
As Hargrave and I rode to a nearby radiology lab for the test, I felt fine. One
thing I had learned over the years: hope is precious, and there's no reason to
give it up until you absolutely have to.

This is where the story changes, of course. The ultrasound, which followed the
mammogram that day, looked terrible. The bump may have felt smooth to my touch,
but on the other side-on the inside-it had grown tentacles, now glowing a
slippery green on the computer screen. The technician called in the radiologist.
Time moved like molasses as I lay in the cold examining room. I grew more
worried, and then came the words that by this point seemed inevitable: "This is
very serious." The radiologist's face was a portrait of gloom.

I dressed and walked back out as I had walked in, through a darkened staff
lounge toward a back door where the Secret Service car and Hargrave waited for
me. I was alone in the dark, and I felt frightened and vulnerable. This was the
darkest moment, the moment it really hit me. I had cancer. As the weight of it
sank in, I slowed my step and the tears pushed against my eyes. I pushed back.
Not now. Now I had to walk back into that sunlight, that beautiful Carolina day,
to the Secret Service and to Hargrave, who would be watching my face for clues
just as I had watched the image on the ultrasound monitor.

"It's bad," was all I could manage to Hargrave.

As the Secret Service backed out onto the road for home, Hargrave rubbed my
shoulder and silent tears snuck across my cheeks. I had to call John, and I
couldn't do that until I could speak without crying. The thing I wanted to do
most was talk to him, and the thing I wanted to do least was tell him this news.

I had mentioned nothing to John earlier, although I spoke to him several times a
day during the campaign, as we had for our entire marriage. I couldn't let him
worry when he was so far away. And I had hoped there would be nothing to tell
him. Certainly not this. I had promised myself he would never have to hear bad
news again. He-and Cate, our older daughter-had suffered too much already. Our
son Wade had been killed in an auto accident eight years earlier, and we had all
been through the worst life could deal us. I never wanted to see either of them
experience one more moment of sadness. And, after almost thirty years of
marriage, I knew exactly how John would respond. As soon as he heard, he would
insist that we drop everything and take care of the problem.

Sitting in the car, I dialed John's number. Lexi Bar, who had been with us for
years and was like family, answered. I skipped our usual banter and asked to
speak to John. He had just landed in Raleigh-we had both come home to vote and
to attend a large rally where the rock star Jon Bon Jovi was scheduled to
perform.

He got on the phone, and I started slowly. "Sweetie," I began. It's how I always
began. And then came the difference: I couldn't speak. Tears were there, panic
was there, need was there, but not words. He knew, of course, when I couldn't
speak that something was wrong.

"Just tell me what's wrong," he insisted.

I explained that I had found the lump, had it checked out by Wells, and now
needed to have a needle biopsy. "I'm sure it's nothing," I assured him and told
him that I wanted to wait until after the election to have the biopsy. He said
he'd come right home, and I went there to wait for him.

(Continues...)





Excerpted from Saving Graces
by Elizabeth Edwards
Copyright © 2006 by Elizabeth Edwards.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, a lawyer, has worked for the North Carolina Attorney General’s office and at the law firm Merriman, Nichols, and Crampton in Raleigh, and she has also taught legal writing as an adjunct instructor at the law school of North Carolina University. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
susieSY More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I am a 22 yr stage II breast cancer survivor, plus the same age as Elizabeth. It went into great detail about how she felt when she lost her son, Wade. I suppose like me, at the time she was dealing with other issues and she never thought she could not beat this disease. At times I think I have beaten the disease, but with every pain or health issue I think "is it back." I give it only a three star because it seemed more about her grief of Wade's death than anything else.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed reading Saving Graces and, no doubt, will enjoy reading it again. Since the recent death of my wife and soul mate, I have suffered so. I am grateful to share in the understanding that I am not alone. Spiritual healing is what I get from this book. Thank you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Apparently I'm in the minority here, but I was very disappointed in this book. Mrs. Edwards spent a lot of time trying to convince her readers that she's 'just one of us,' but she left me feeling exactly the opposite - that she's among the wealthy elite and has forgotten from whence she came. Of course, John's $400 haircuts and their new $6 million, 28,000 square foot house do nothing to dispel that, so maybe I'm a little biased. The excessive name-dropping quickly grew tiresome (did she really have to include the name of every single person she's ever had personal contact with?) and the pages of transcribed emails and blogs seemed completely unnecessary. I do feel a little bad about bashing her, given everything she's been through, but still ... I was fairly ambivalent about her before reading this book, but that's no longer a problem. I now know exactly how I feel about her. (And lest you think this is political, I'm a registered Democrat!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an outstanding book. I hope for Elizabeth Edwards to tell her story helped her a bit. To lose a child has to be the worst thing in the world and then to have breast cancer (which has to be the second worse thing in the world), and to come out of it a wonderful person is totally awesome. Definitely a book to read for all. I couldn't put this down and read it it record time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1979, my son died from cancer, and I still think about him everyday. It's just not an easy thing to accept, so I especially appreciated Elizabeth Edward's generosity in sharing her feeling about her son with me, the reader. A part of me will forever be sad by the loss of my son, but I am also spiritually renewed by this book. Additionally, it would be an understatement for me to tell you that the story of the lady and 'her found money' in the book is forever part of my heart memories. This book is truly ointment for the soul because it is a love story of a family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would vote for ELIZABETH Edwards any day. She has incredible insight and wisdom and wow can she write!! I felt empathy with her grief and admiration for her conduct during the campaign. I recommend this book to anyone as a reminder of how to approach life in general as well as how to deal with adversity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely touching memoir by a remarkable lady. I highly recommend it to anyone who has experienced loss or is going through a trying time in their own life. She writes eloquently of the things that can separate us and, more importantly, of the things that bring us together.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sweet, insightful, wise...worthwhile reflections from a great lady.
vikay More than 1 year ago
This is a very poignant book written by a very remarkable woman.
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Cathy DiCristofaro More than 1 year ago
Sad but all telling the strength that Elizabeth had was incredible! I was impressed by how much her family supported her. There is nothing like a close family!
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