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Real story: My mom’s battle with breast cancer inspired me

Cate’s mother passed away from breast cancer a few years ago, and what they both experienced and learned during her illness has created a legacy that has a life of its own.

Cate Edwards and mother Elizabeth

Photo credit: Cate Edwards

Cate, who now lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and their dog Luca, was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina with her mom, dad, brother and sister. Her mom, Elizabeth Edwards, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, and lost her battle in 2010. This is their story.

How their focus changed

Cate’s mother was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in November 2004 — and in 2007, she was re-diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Cate told us that each diagnosis created a unique challenge for her and the rest of her family. “It was difficult to hear those diagnoses, and they came with two very different mentalities,” she explained. “In 2004, it was all about putting together a plan, course of treatment, and tackling this problem with a short-term outlook and focusing on a positive outcome.”

However, with the diagnosis of advanced breast cancer, their attitude and focus understandably changed. “In 2007, with the advanced stage diagnosis, the focus shifted from short term to long term,” she told us. “The cancer was treatable but not curable — she would be living with the disease for rest of her life. The focus turned to making every day count.”

Cate Edwards -- Count on Us

Photo credit: David Plakke

Planning a wedding

Cate’s mom didn’t know how long she had to live after her diagnosis with advanced breast cancer, which presented a view of life that they hadn’t had to consider before. Each day took on a special meaning for both mother and daughter. “The last years of my mom’s life were focused on ensuring she lived life with purpose,” Cate remembered. “She didn’t know how long she’d live, so it was important for her to make every day count.”

Moms of girls dream about the days ahead where they can help their daughters plan their weddings, but that wasn’t a given for Elizabeth and Cate considering her illness. After Cate got engaged in November 2010, however, she was so happy that she had the opportunity to talk about her wedding with her mom before she passed away. “She was comforted to know that I could set forth in my own path and start a family with someone she loved and admired,” she said.

Cate and her mother had a lovely time gathering materials and brainstorming ideas for her nuptials. “My mom and I pulled magazine clippings together, planned, and came to a rustic/romantic theme together,” Cate remembered. “We talked about having reception at the house, which is what I did.”

Continued advocacy

Cate Edwards

Photo credit: David Plakke

Elizabeth passed away on December 7, 2010, and in 2013 Cate joined the Count Us, Know Us, Join Us program as a spokesperson — a program she feels lucky to be a part of. Also known as “Count Us” for short, the program works to bring recognition, attention and essential support to women living with advanced breast cancer.

There is a lot of attention paid to breast cancer detection and early breast cancer, but Cate and her mother discovered that women with advanced breast cancer don’t always have the same resources. “The advanced breast cancer community faces unique challenges and is in need of a better support system,” she explained.

The “Count Us” movement has brought together resources at their website. Cate said, “It provides support, advice and information for advanced breast cancer patients, caregivers, friends and family members.” This support and guidance are so important, and it’s wonderful that Cate can help other families going through the same things that she and her family went through.

More on breast cancer

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Diagnosed with breast cancer: Now what?
How to support someone fighting breast cancer

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