Living with a chronic, degenerative disease like multiple sclerosis is no day at the beach. There is no cure. Although not uncommon, multiple sclerosis by itself can be fatal (1% of the MS population). More frequently, about 10% of MS patients experience other life-threatening complications, such as:
Dehydration or Malnutrition as a result of difficulty swallowing or the inability to care for oneself.
Kidney failure. Urinary tract infections, urine retention and sphincter dysfunction are common in MS and of which could lead to kidney failure
Aspiration. Throat muscles not working can cause choking or inhalation of food or drink, which may cause pneumonia
Depression unaided or left without assistance can, and sadly often does, lead to suicide
Stress can make symptoms worse, trigger flare-ups, and hasten the disease's progression, so avoiding stress wherever possible becomes key to a patient's strategy for living with MS. For the other 90% of MS patients not in imminent danger of dying, achieving some success in living with this disease includes therapies which help in managing the normal physical and psychological stress of daily life. The rigors of a two-year campaign for the presidency mean constant stress that takes a toll on the healthiest candidates and their families. And make that a six-year campaign, should Romney actually win the general election, because every day of his first term will be in reelection mode for a second term.
I question the emotional fitness, judgment, values and commitment (to spouse and family) of any candidate who goes ahead with a bid for the presidency after his spouse has gotten an MS diagnosis.
I see this as a much more serious consideration for voters than Elizabeth and John Edwards' situation. While stress certainly plays a role in cancer's course, once cancer has progressed to stage 4 (metastasized to other parts of the body, which is what has happened to Mrs. Edwards; the cancer has spread to bones and organs, a lung), she's pretty much "Dead Woman Walking." That may sound harsh, but that's what's happening, absent the high-priced public relations' consultants' positive, "best case scenario" spin.
Edwards's campaign got out the pertinent facts regarding his wife's condition: The severity of her condition, and how his campaign will be affected by it. When Elizabeth Edwards needs him by her side, he'll be with her and not the campaign.
Elizabeth Edwards has decided that whatever time she has left, she's going to spend it as she sees fit, doing what she believes is important. With her family's blessings. John Edwards dropping out of the campaign isn't going to change Mrs. Edwards' prognosis or give her more time.
The same isn't true for Ann Romney, nor is the benefit that dropping out of the campaign would have on her health.
Yet the media allows the Romneys to avoid the questions that are dogging the Edwards. Today, FOXnews.com has begun anew the same story from 3 weeks ago - Wife of John Edwards Defends Decision to Stick With Campaign After Cancer Diagnosis:
Elizabeth Edwards wants to be clear: She made the choice to stick with her husband's campaign for president after learning her cancer was back.
"I think that people who are critical like to think that John dragged me kicking and fighting the whole way, that I'm somehow disappointed in this. I'm not disappointed in this," she said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters after her husband's town hall meeting at Concord High School, Edwards, 57, said at decision time, she went first.
"He let me make it first, I think, because he wanted to make certain it was mine and I wasn't just deferring to him," she said. "This is what I wanted to do."
As for criticism of their decision: "I don't worry for me because we've got tough skin. And, honestly, having been through the death of a child, it's just words. You want to hurt us, you're going to have to do a little better than that."
It was the couple's first campaign trip to New Hampshire since announcing last month that Elizabeth Edwards' breast cancer, diagnosed at the end of the 2004 campaign, had returned in her bones. John Edwards stayed in the race, drawing praise from cancer survivors. From others, he drew questions about whether that was the right choice.
In Concord, Elizabeth Edwards led the way into the gymnasium, followed by her husband, son Jack and daughters Cate and Emma Claire.
John Edwards was the headliner, speaking to a mostly high school-age audience on broad themes of unity and change and their importance in solving Iraq, health care, climate change and poverty.
"The country and the world has to change," he said. "Instead of taking small steps, we need big bold steps."
On Iraq, Edwards criticized President Bush's threat to veto a House-passed bill to set a timeline for withdrawing from Iraq.
"If the president chooses to veto it, it's the president of the United States who's decided 'I'm not going to provide the funding to the troops leaving Iraq," he said. "If he vetoes it they ought to send it back to him."
But Elizabeth Edwards was the show stealer. John Edwards got his first round of applause by mentioning his wife: "She's shown extraordinary courage and I'm very, very proud of her."
And when he left the room, she lingered, surrounded by autograph seekers, well-wishers and reporters jostling for quotes.
"I was here to see Elizabeth, really," said Ruth Ann Herbert.
Herbert wanted to speak to Edwards about their common loss — both had teenage sons who died. In introducing her husband, Edwards spoke of their son, Wade, who died at 16 in a car crash, and the high school learning lab created in his memory. Herbert, a reading tutor at Concord High, established a scholarship in her son's name.
"I just wanted to tell her that we're sisters. You have no idea unless you've lost a child, and I just wanted to let her know that she's very inspiring to me," Herbert said.
In Durham, after a packed town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire, an elderly woman bustled through the crowd surrounding John Edwards, threw her arms around him in a hug and asked where his wife was.
"She's over there," he said. "She's got a big crowd around her."
Edwards spoke a day after announcing he had raised more than $14 million in campaign money. Sen. Hillary Clinton had raised a record $26 million.
"One thing is clear — there are at least two candidates, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, who are going to have plenty of money to run a serious campaign," Edwards said.
Where will Romney be when his wife can't make the campaign schedule, can't pull herself out of her bed, can't feed herself or speak?
Where is Bernadine Healy, informing the public about multiple sclerosis?
Where is Rush Limbaugh, and other "somebodies," accusing Mitt Romney of political opportunism?