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Elizabeth Edwards: It was terrifying

By Steve Lyttle
slyttle@charlotteobserver.com

Elizabeth Edwards says the decision to leave her husband, former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards, was "terrifying" but says she is moving on with her life.

In an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show that aired this morning, Edwards also said she is hurt by public portrayals of her as someone who meddled or interfered with her husband's career.

"I never intended to be some monster," Edwards said.

The interview coincided with the release in paperback of her book "Resilience," which originally was published a year ago, before Edwards decided to divorce her husband. The paperback version adds a chapter that describes the breakup of their family.

Their marriage disintegrated after John Edwards admitted fathering a baby with Rielle Hunter, with whom he had a long-term relationship that started during his presidential campaign. Hunter now lives in Charlotte.

During the NBC interview, Elizabeth Edwards also said:

She watched parts of Oprah Winfrey's televised interview with Hunter.

She and John Edwards remain in contact and working together to maintain a positive atmosphere for their three living children.

She is undergoing a new type of chemotherapy treatment to deal with her cancer but says she does not allow herself to worry too much about dying.

This morning's interview is the first of two national TV appearances for Edwards today. She will talk with Larry King on his 9 p.m. program tonight on CNN.

"The hardback version ended with an intact family," Elizabeth Edwards said of her decision to add a chapter to the book. "To make it honest, the next chapter had to be present."

Edwards said she struggled to keep the marriage with her husband going, thinking initially that John Edwards' relationship with Hunter was "a one-night stand." But during the spring and summer of 2008, she said, she came to realize the affair was much more. And by late 2009, she said, "I gave up trying."

Edwards said the decision to end the marriage was "a sad and terrifying decision," but she added, "We had gone so far down the road that we were at a place ... where Elizabeth didn't exist any more."

Elizabeth Edwards told Lauer she "married a marvelous man."

However, she added, "I think he changed over time ... he is no longer the person I married."

She said John Edwards served as an assistant coach of their young daughter's softball team this spring, and she talked with him when she went to watch games. She said she still admires some of the things her husband stands for, and she wants her children to love him -- in part, because he might be their only parent if her cancer should worsen and claim her life.

As for Oprah Winfrey's interview with Hunter, Edwards said she did not watch the show when it first aired.

"I watched it later -- not the whole thing, but I watched part of it," she said.

"What did you think of her?" Lauer asked Edwards of Hunter.

"I still think this person (Hunter) is so unlike me that it is hard to believe this other person (John Edwards) can be involved with a person like that," Elizabeth Edwards responded.

She said she was hurt by published reports that she was difficult to get along with and interfered too much with her husband's presidential campaign in 2008. Edwards dismissed criticism in a book published by former John Edwards aide Andrew Young as "so filled with lies that ... it has no bearing on reality with me."

As for another book, "Game Change," written by political columnists John Heiliman and Mark Halperin, she said she believes her actions were misunderstood. Edwards said she thought of herself as having a role in her husband's campaign but says she has learned that others thought of her "as the candidate's wife."

Edwards said she hopes to move beyond the divorce, to move beyond being defined as John Edwards' ex-wife.

"The next time I'm interviewed, I would like it to be about something I have accomplished," she said.

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