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Elizabeth Edwards and Sen. Ted Kennedy (AFP/Getty Images)

Illness in the Public Eye

May 22, 2008 (Talk of the Nation)

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News spread quickly on Tuesday when doctors announced that Senator Ted Kennedy had a malignant brain tumor. Like other public figures who have faced serious health problems, Kennedy will have to handle his condition in the public spotlight.

Some celebrities grappling with serious diagnoses do their best to preserve their privacy, while others choose to use public interest in their illness as an opportunity for outreach and education.

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, talks about her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks before the presidential election. In her book, Saving Graces, she chronicles what it's like to deal with personal health issues under the watchful public eye.

Dr. Barron Lerner, professor of medicine and public health at Columbia University Medical Center, talks about his book, When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

'Saving Graces'

Read an excerpt from Saving Graces, Elizabeth Edwards' book about dealing with private losses in public.

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