Posted on December 29, 2010 at 10:14 AM
Sunday, Jan 2 at 8:34 PM
Susan Edwards, the WWL-TV reporter whose yearlong battle with cancer inspired friends, colleagues and viewers in New Orleans and her native Alabama, died early Wednesday. She was 34.
Edwards, a reporter at WWL since 2007, had been diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009, but tumors later spread to her lungs, making them more difficult to treat.
Even after receiving aggressive chemotherapy and a series of experimental drug treatments, Edwards showed signs of the remarkable resilience and positive attitude that friends and co-workers came to love and respect her for.
"Yeah, it's been up and down for the most part, but more good days than bad. All I can do is take it day by day. If this medicine works - I know it's not a miracle life saver - but it could extend my life,” she told the Huntsville, Alabama Times newspaper in a Dec. 1 article.
"I'm not living in a dream world. I know what I'm up against. Only the good Lord knows what will happen. It's out of my hands, and I just do my best to follow His path. When I do that, I have peace," she said.
WWL-TV anchor and interim news director Mike Hoss remembered Edwards Wednesday as a unique, fun-loving person, with a keen sense of humor and quick wit that he said quickly endeared her to the staff.
“Susie faced this battle with a strength and courage that was unimaginable,” Hoss said. “She was so young and had so many reasons to be angry, but she never was. She was always the one picking up our spirits. She never said ‘Why me?’ only ‘What's the next hurdle to overcome?’"
Medical reporter Meg Farris was one of the first people Edwards turned to when she began feeling ill, and sought out a diagnosis.
“I remember going to the internet immediately when she got more details on the cancer, and it was not good from the very beginning, but Susie even said, ‘Don’t read about it on the web site. You will get down, and I'm choosing to be optimistic,’” Farris said.
Professionally, WWL-TV colleagues remembered her ability to quickly grasp the facts of a hard news story, as her job demanded, but also her love for human interest stories.
“She loved the stories where she got to tell someone's story, where she got to meet people and get a chance to share their life and some of the hardships but also their joy,” said Adam Copus, a WWL-TV photographer and friend.
Copus and others remembered Edwards’ becoming a quick fan of New Orleans, seeking out fairs, festivals, concerts and other aspects of the city’s culture – even dressing up in costume on air for Mardi Gras her first year here.
“Susie was a big foodie,” Copus said, “always trying new recipes, new restaurants, getting out into New Orleans and experiencing all the tastes and the music and everything that the city had.”
Other friends remarked at how Edwards had spent the past year battling her health problems with the tenacity of a reporter – seeking out answers, keeping detailed notes and asking questions of the doctors offering her experimental new treatments even when the outcome was far from clear. She was only the sixth person in the world to try one of the experimental treatments doctors gave her, according to the Huntsville Times article.
“Susie's ordeal was a bit of a roller coaster, always getting good news and then sometimes bad news,” Copus said. “So every time she got bad news, she kept going on and she would say ‘Well, that didn't work. Let's try something else.’ She was just so strong.”
Aside from the physical and emotional toll the situation took on her, there was a financial one as well. Friends and colleagues in New Orleans and Alabama organized fundraisers, one of which was scheduled for next month and will go on as planned, to help defray medical bills and funeral expenses.
Edwards, a University of Alabama graduate, worked as a reporter at WAFF-TV in Huntsville from 2002 to 2007, when she moved to New Orleans. She began her career at WAAY in Huntsville, in 1997.
She is survived by her mother. Friends said Edwards' final wishes included spreading her ashes at five different spots, including the French Quarter -- a sign of her deep love for her adopted hometown.
Funeral services will be held Friday, Dec. 31 in Alabama, at Morgan Funeral Chapel, 625 Gilbert Ferry Road SE, Attalla, AL 35954.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Cancer Society or to the Susan A. Edwards Capital One bank account to help with funeral costs.