Former presidential candidate John Edwards said Wednesday he still cares deeply about his wife despite the couple's separation.
"It is an extraordinarily sad moment, but I love my children more than anything and still care deeply about Elizabeth," Edwards said in a statement to The Associated Press.
A friend of Elizabeth Edwards confirmed Wednesday that the couple is separated. Elizabeth's sister, Nancy Anania, told the AP that she remains strong.
"She's doing as well as you could expect," Anania said. "I'm really proud of her that, somehow, she's got strength that you rarely see in a person."
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In PEOPLE's latest cover story, Anania said Elizabeth Edwards has had enough.
"She said, 'I've had it. I can't do this. I want my life back,' " she said.
The statements come as a former aide to Edwards prepares to release a tell-all book that gives an unflattering portrait of the couple and the tumultuous relationship they tried to maintain after he first acknowledged his affair on the campaign trail. It also comes one week after John Edwards finally made a public declaration that he fathered a child, now almost 2 years old, with his mistress.
It's another wrenching twist for a couple that had previously weathered the death of a 16-year-old son and her ongoing battle with incurable cancer.
They were law school sweethearts who got married just days after they took the bar exam together in the summer of 1977. Though John Edwards later went on to make millions as a trial lawyer, the couple had humble beginnings: He had to borrow money from her parents for a one-night honeymoon. She always wore her $11 wedding ring. For years they spent their anniversaries going to Wendy's, just as they did on their first one.
'Unconscionable, hurtful, patently false'
Former aide Andrew Young initially claimed that he fathered the child with John Edwards' mistress in the weeks leading up to the crucial presidential primaries. John Edwards publicly declared last week that he was the father of the child with Rielle Hunter, who worked as a videographer before his second presidential campaign in 2008.
The statement released on behalf of Elizabeth Edwards said she will not engage in a dialogue on "false charges" in the book.
"Based on the limited portions of the book that have been made available, it is clear it contains many falsehoods and exaggerations," she said. She responded to one point, saying the suggestion that she capitalized on her cancer is "unconscionable, hurtful and patently false."
The PEOPLE story describes a meeting between Elizabeth Edwards and 23-month-old Frances Quinn Hunter — the baby John fathered with Hunter — in a mediated visit at a North Carolina hotel.
Video: John Edwards admits fathering Hunter’s child "She gave it a lot of thought, wrapped up a bunch of Christmas presents, took them to the baby and was so pleased when Quinn made a beeline to the toy carriage and doll," Anania told PEOPLE. "She even said to Quinn, 'Go stand next to Daddy.' And she took a picture.
"I don't know how she could do that," Anania added. "She just has a big heart."
Elizabeth Edwards has an incurable form of cancer that returned in 2007 as the couple was campaigning for the presidency. She said last week that her health got worse for a period but has been recently improving.
John Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate, has largely stayed secluded since first admitting the affair in August 2008. He denied fathering a child with Hunter at that time. He has acknowledged a federal investigation into his campaign finances.
‘Like watching a traffic pileup’
Young's book recounts how Edwards asked Young to help cover up the affair with Hunter and promised to take care of him in the future. The book, "The Politician," is not due out until Saturday.
Young provides an unflattering portrait of Edwards, talking about his obsession with campaign donations, his fixation with his hair, his disapproval of "fat rednecks" at state fairs and the lengths he went to hide the affair.
A longtime aide to Edwards, Young describes the discovery of a videotape showing Edwards and a naked Hunter.
"It was like watching a traffic pileup occur in slow motion — it was repelling but also transfixing," he writes, according to the Journal.
Edwards spent part of last week in Haiti helping with relief efforts. His wife has declined to discuss their marital status.
This story contains information from The Associated Press and People.com.
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