After cancer took their son Beau Biden, first lady Jill Biden admitted in an exclusive interview Monday on Newsmax, she drifted away from God, but has since had that faith restored and a new "purpose" in helping American families navigate cancer "survivorship."
"Cancer is not one of these issues, it's not a red or blue issue: Cancer affects every American family," she told "Conversations With Nancy Brinker" this weekend in Florida.
"It's unifying. Cancer is such a terrible disease, but it is unifying people. They're all coming together, saying, 'Yes, let's work with one another, and let's reduce the incidents of cancer as we know it, and change the face of cancer.'"
Jill hailed President Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot initiative, which emanated from the grief of their own loss, forcing them to find "purpose" and a way to help people against the cancer disease.
"We didn't want other families to go through what we had gone through," she told her longtime friend Nancy Brinker, who is a breast cancer survivor and founder of the Promise Fund of Florida, which seeks to reduce breast and cervical cancer by prevention, testing, and early treatment.
In addition to funding research and development of cancer treatments, "we put a lot of time to break down silos," the first lady said, "so doctors, and scientists, and researchers are now talking to one another."
Long before she became first lady, Jill developed a program called the Biden Breast Health Initiative, sharing warnings with young girls in Delaware schools on the importance of good breast health, including models to help show what a lump could feel like to help early diagnosis and awareness.
"Back in 1993, four of my friends got breast cancer at the exact same time, and I thought, Oh, my gosh, what can I do?" she told Brinker. "And one of those friends died. The other three survived.
"I thought, Well, I'm not a medical doctor, but I am a teacher, I'm an educator."
She is helping on the education aspect now.
"Prevention, early detection is the key, because if you catch it early you have so much better chance surviving breast cancer," she said.
The messaging of awareness is more important than ever, she added, because Americans put off cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think in the next couple of months you're going to see more cancers, the incidents, because people are going back and they're realizing, Gosh, I forgot to get my colonoscopy; I didn't get my mammogram; I didn't get my skin screening."
Also, the first lady, being a mother, said she is taking a particularly close role in cultivating "navigators" who "help families through the journey."
"The worst thing in the world, and I've been through this with my son and with my sister and my mother and father, and when you hear the doctor say, 'You have cancer,' it's just like you freeze in time," she said.
"You don't hear anything else. And we need to help people and families navigate the system. Where are the good doctors? Where are the trials? What's this going to mean as you go into survivorship of cancer? And what therapies are available? And what should you use: chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy?
"All these different things. They're all going to be new words to you. And you need somebody to help walk you through that, because it's so devastating."
She stressed the "emotional toll" on the patient and the family, in addition to financial and social impacts on lives.
And, she admitted to Newsmax, it tested her faith to the point of what she once thought might be no return.
"I believed so fervently that Beau was going to live that I just didn't give up hope ever," she told Brinker. "Until he took his last breath, I felt, Beau is going to survive this.
"And when he died, it took me a long time to ... I was angry. It really shocked me, because I had prayed so hard for him to live."
Jill Biden said she "had this empty, angry feeling" for "over two years" after Beau's death.
But things turned around at a church in South Carolina.
"A woman came up to me, a stranger, and she put her hand on my knee and said, 'Jill, I want to be your prayer partner,'" she said.
"We started to pray together and we do it to this day," she added. "That was several years ago.
"I felt like it was God's way of saying to me, OK, Jill, come back."
That renewed faith has helped her serve as first lady and helped her heal American families and lives shattered by cancer, by war, or by natural disasters like Hurricane Ian in Florida.
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Eric Mack ✉
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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