While Elizabeth Edwards' recent announcement that her breast cancer has progressed to Stage Four has propelled the issue to the forefront of national consciousness, a group of Stanford women have been meeting for years to offer one another support in their own battle against the same disease facing 2008 presidential hopeful John Edwards' wife.
The Breast Cancer Support Group was formed about four years ago when around 25 local women began regularly attending Kentucky First Lady Judy Patton's annual post-Kentucky Derby tea for breast cancer survivors. Since then, the group has evolved into a grass-roots organization working with the American Cancer Society to help local women adjust after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Margaret Gabriel, one of the group's original members, underwent a double mastectomy in September 2003. She suffered from a different type of cancer in each breast, and 23 out of 30 of her lymph nodes were found to be malignant upon testing. Although she had regular mammograms and always followed her doctor's instructions, her cancer had already progressed to Stage Four. As in the case of Elizabeth Edwards, the cancer had metastasized to Gabriel's bone tissue. Gabriel believes that the hormone treatments she took for 14 years caused her cancer, though her oncologist has never confirmed it. She now has bone cancer in eight or nine places, including her ribs, pelvis and skull.