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Posted at 5:04 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Elizabeth Edwards: A look back at her very public last few years

By The Reliable Source

(Susan Biddle/The Washington Post) See a gallery of Elizabeth Edwards photos

Elizabeth Edwards, who died Tuesday at the age of 61, had emerged as one of the more complex and intriguing characters in American political life in recent years.

In early 2007, the wife of then-presidential candidate John Edwards announced that her breast cancer had returned, worse than ever -- but that they'd decided to forge ahead with his campaign. Her buoyant attitude at the time stunned and impressed many observers. Months later, our colleague Dan Balz observed the Edwards campaign and found Elizabeth to be "the hidden hand behind virtually every important decision."

Their campaign fell short, though, and months later came his acknowledgement that he'd had an affair with Rielle Hunter. Elizabeth stood by him, sort of, but increasingly spoke out about her disappointment. She also carved out some distance, taking on public speaking duties and a new public persona as a health-policy expert. She put herself out in public again to promote a revealing memoir, "Resilience," early last year, and insisted that interviewers agree not to mention the other woman by name in their stories.

Early this year, she announced that she and John had separated, and that she was eager to move on. As recently as this summer, she spoke again candidly about the pain of her marriage's disintegration -- but also suggesting she would have welcomed a sort-of-stepmom role to husband's love child. This openness continued to the end; on Monday, as she bid farewell to friends on Facebook. We will update later with more links to obituaries and tributes to Elizabeth Edwards.

By The Reliable Source  | December 7, 2010; 5:04 PM ET
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