Elizabeth was the first person of note I met after moving to NYC in 2008 and it’s an experience I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
I never thought that anything could top landing an internship at The Colbert Report, but after a summer of meeting influential politicians, I encountered a woman that left a footprint on my heart — Elizabeth Edwards. When myself and 15 other interns embarked on our journey with Stephen Colbert during the summer of 2008, we were assigned different tasks, one of which was to work with a man who was in charge of audience members and allocating tickets for the daily taping of the show. I was thrilled, because that meant that I would get to spend tons of time inside the studio and I’d be well aware of which guests were in on any given day. Shortly after my internship began, I discovered that Elizabeth would be interviewed by Stephen on July 17 to discuss universal healthcare, and I did everything possible to make sure that I could meet Elizabeth, no matter how brief the encounter.
Luckily, within the first month I bonded with the hair and makeup ladies, and they pulled a few strings to sneak me into the studio while Elizabeth was getting makeup for her appearance. I patiently waited for Elizabeth in a cold leather makeup chair, and as soon as she entered her presence filled the room with a calmness like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I quietly watched as Elizabeth got her makeup done and listened as she discussed how much she hated wearing her wig — at that point she had been battling breast cancer for four years. My mother’s sister passed away of breast cancer when she was only 32 and the sorority I was in during college was affiliated with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, so I felt a deep connection with her through a disease that had been a subject of my entire life.
Elizabeth asked me who I was, and what I wanted to do with my life. She told me how excited she was to pick her two youngest children, Emma Claire, 12, and Jack, 10, up from camp, and she would segue in and out of discussing her breast cancer treatment. Elizabeth had a realness about her. She wasn’t acting like the cancer wasn’t there, she openly talked about how the cancer had spread and that she was going back in for more tests. After about 30 minutes Elizabeth looked over at me and asked what it was I wanted to do, and I told her I dreamt of being a reporter. She told me the world needed more female reporters and that you “achieve anything if you put your mind to it.”
As she was escorted out of the room and into the studio, I asked her if she would pose for a photo (above) — a photo for me that symbolizes a woman of strength, resilence, and everything I hope to one day be.