Transcript: Lance Armstrong on Surviving Cancer

After Bill Clinton, there is perhaps no spouse in the 2008 presidential race as powerful as Elizabeth Edwards. She is her husband's closest adviser and toughest enforcer. She has her own fund-raising following. She revises drafts of some of John's speeches. Outsiders angling for staff positions get grilled intensively by the candidate—and his wife. "This doesn't require any parsing of words," John Edwards says. "Elizabeth is involved in everything."

Now Edwards and his top counselor are facing their toughest campaign challenge yet: how to manage her future on the trail. In the two weeks since the Edwardses learned that Elizabeth's breast cancer has returned and is incurable, the couple has seen an outpouring of support. Lance Armstrong, a family friend, called. So did George H.W. Bush, who suggested a specialist at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The campaign raised $540,000 online in the week after Elizabeth's announcement. In the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, 56 percent of adults think Edwards made the right decision by staying in the race; only 12 percent think he is trying to use his wife's illness to his own political advantage. "When I walk down the street I can't move," John tells NEWSWEEK. "People stop me: 'How's Elizabeth? We're thinking about her'."

But in the coming days, John and Elizabeth will face tough choices about how to balance private and public responsibilities. Most immediate: what to do about their two small children, Jack, 6, and Emma Clare, 8? In a much-dissected interview with Katie Couric on "60 Minutes," the couple seemed oddly wooden when asked if a campaign was worth the time away from their kids. ("The most important thing you can give your children is wings," Elizabeth told Couric. "Some time they're going to have to be able to fly by themselves.") "I know we've been asked about that in the press," Edwards says, "for both of us that's the hardest issue. We have to figure out what to do with them." To that end, the couple has decided to take the children out of school for the campaign and home-school them on the campaign plane. The children won't mind the road, says Edwards: "Jack said to me on the phone just a few days ago, 'Dad, I want to go on the campaign trail, when are we going to go on the campaign trail?'"

Another challenge will be keeping Elizabeth healthy amid the demands of a presidential race. Edwards, who says his wife has a tendency "to downplay her own needs," admits he may not always know if she is pushing herself too hard. "It's a good question," says Edwards. "I can usually tell by the way she talks how she's feeling, but the doctors will have to keep watching her very closely."

Watching her closely could mean less time on the trail. Edwards says that while he expects Hillary Clinton raised far more money than he did in the first quarter of 2006, he hopes to be "in touch of" Barack Obama in campaign donations. If so, it will be in part because, unlike Obama, Edwards was not tied to a job in Washington and spent most every day of the quarter on the road raising cash. "Before this recurred, the intensity of the need for me to be in her presence and vice versa was not as great," he says. "Now it's very intense."

Elizabeth's diagnosis has made presidential candidates' health a top issue for the first time since Bob Dole ran against Bill Clinton in 1996. Republican front runners John McCain and Rudy Giuliani—survivors, respectively, of skin and prostate cancer—will soon face questions about their own long-term prognoses. Edwards has said he does not want anyone to vote for him because his wife has cancer but says it's appropriate for voters to evaluate how he handles Elizabeth's condition. "When people think about electing a president," he says, "they think about the substance and they also think about what kind of human being you are."