Elizabeth Edwards -- declaring, "I'm not just a cuckolded wife" -- says she can easily relate to actress Sandra Bullock, star of "The Blind Side," whose divorce from philandering husband Jesse James became final this week.
"I think about Sandra Bullock -- who I don't know at all -- what an incredible year she's had," Edwards tells NBC Today show host Matt Lauer in an interview that aired Wednesday. "She won the Academy Award for an incredible performance, and more than that, she took that story and integrated that into her own life in this healthy, happy way," by secretly adopting son Louis in January. "And yet, the stories you hear are not about all those great successes, but about the failure of her marriage."
Says Edwards: "That's not who she is... I assume she wants to reclaim who she is in the same way I want to reclaim who I am."
In the pre-taped conversation, she spoke for the first time about the breakup of what once was considered a devoted, loving family. It was part of a media blitz to promote the paperback version of her 2009 memoir, "Resilience," with a new epilogue that came out Tuesday. Click play below to watch video of the conversation:
Edwards writes that she has one simple, powerful wish: to survive the incurable breast cancer that now has spread to her spine, skull and legs, for at least eight years to see her youngest child finish high school.
Mothering her own three children -- Jack, 10; Emma Claire, 12 and Cate, 28 -- at least until 2018 would allow Edwards, 60, "to finish the one job I know I did better than any other," she writes in the epilogue.
The book's final "next chapter" explains her decision to split from her law school sweetheart and former North Carolina Democratic senator. She is divorcing John Edwards, two time White House contender and her husband of nearly 33 years, over his long affair with Rielle Hunter, who bore him a daughter, now two years old.
"Is it too much to want your obituary, when written, to be about your own life, not the lives of the worst people who came into your life? About the lies they told for their own purposes?" she writes. Edwards says she tried stay married after her husband told her he'd had a "one night stand" with Hunter, his presidential campaign videographer. After all, the couple had been tested by the death of their oldest child, Wade, in a 1998 auto crash and her ongoing battles with cancer.
After the truth of the long-term affair and Hunter's baby came out, she called it quits.
"I simply wanted to be away from all of the things I had tried to accept," writes Edwards. "I wanted to take a long shower and be away from the lies my husband had told me and the woman he told them about, and the awful couple who had helped him live the lies and even the now-dead friend of his who had at some level made at least the last of it possible."
Edwards never names Hunter in the epilogue. Nor does she name Edwards' longtime aide Andrew Young and his wife, Cheri, who harbored Hunter in their home for a time, or wealthy Texan Fred Baron, who financed Hunter's move from North Carolina to avoid the press, before he died.
"I had been trying to reinvent the role of wife for the last two years -- trying to find a place where I could be happy and still be John's wife, despite his infidelity...and at the very end of 2009, I finally stopped trying."
When she began writing the epilogue, she thought she could settle into "a happy home with an adoring husband, a hard-won peace between us, where we could raise and nourish our youngest children, finally a moment away from a prying public. It was none of these."
She called the decision to split "sad and terrifying."
But it has not been so sad and terrifying as to keep her from promoting the book with a vengeance.
In the interview with Lauer, Edwards concedes that she watched "some of" Rielle Hunter's sit-down interview on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" after it aired, and came away with this impression: "I still think this person is so completely unlike me that it's hard to imagine the same person could marry me and be attracted to that -- to that woman, as well."
On Wednesday night, Elizabeth Edwards appears on CNN's "Larry King Live."
And this week's "People" magazine, not yet on newsstands, contains a lengthy interview with the wronged wife, as well as an essay by Cate -- a lawyer living in Washington and clerking for a federal judge -- about her mother.
"There are the things she taught without words," including "how to continue to live your life on your own terms when it somehow becomes savaged by people you never invited into it."
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