Elizabeth Edwards and the Tragedy of the Uninsured

In 2007 I had the great opportunity to hear Elizabeth Edwards speak (and to meet her as well.) She was speaking to the women gathered for the BlogHer conference and shared her very personal battle with breast cancer. Today’s news about Edwards’ decision to discontinue treatment for the cancer that now will certainly, end her life reminds me of what she said to the women gathered at that event.

Edwards told the audience about meeting a woman while on John Edwards’ campaign trail. The woman shook Elizabeth Edwards’ hand and told her that she too, had breast cancer but that she knew it would kill her, because she didn’t have insurance.

Think about that. There are people who die from cancer, not because there isn’t treatment, not because we haven’t found the cure, but because they don’t have insurance. I have heard people say that they didn’t know that was possible – that in the United States we can’t possibly let people who can’t afford treatment just die, right?


In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that 37,000 cancer patients die without insurance.

Fast forward to this watershed year of health care reform in which cancer cannot be considered a pre-existing condition. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Was it news to you that cancer patients without insurance often die without cancer treatment?

I am sad that Elizabeth Edwards is losing the battle with cancer, despite being a champion for other women and health, and despite having the coverage and medical care that many can’t afford.

From her Facebook page, Edwards sends a message to friends and family:

“You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.

“But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know.”

BlogHer '07 - Elizabeth Edwards

Photo credit: Josh Hallett

About marijean

I'm a public relations professional, social media consultant and work-at-home-mom living and working in Charlottesville, Va. I'm Marijean Jaggers and this is my blog.
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3 Responses to Elizabeth Edwards and the Tragedy of the Uninsured

  1. Emarieg says:

    What a lovely photo.

  2. Slava says:

    Great post, MJ. Elizabeth Edwards was a fighter for health care for everyone because she believed in America as a just society. This simple fact about her is more important than all the news about her husband’s infidelity.

  3. Soccer Mom says:

    It was certainly not a surprise to me…after the insane cost of a kidney stone my mom dealt with this year I am not at all surprised those who cannot afford the high-cost of cancer treatments out-of-pocket…even to save their lives. I cried reading this.

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