Elizabeth Edwards dies of cancer at 61

Elizabeth Edwards (Source: WRAL)
Elizabeth Edwards (Source: WRAL)

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards who has battled cancer for the last several years, died at her home Tuesday afternoon.

Edwards died at her home in Chapel Hill, where family and friends had gathered since doctors said her cancer had worsened and recommended that she not seek additional further treatment.

A family statement released Monday afternoon said physicians told the 61-year-old last week there would be no further benefit from continuing her cancer treatments.

A friend says her estranged husband, former presidential candidate John Edwards, their children, and her brother and sister, were at her side at the Edwards' home.

In the statement released Monday, Edwards thanked those who "support and inspire" her. Edwards said she was grateful to have made a positive impact.

Edwards focused on reforming the country's health care system toward a single-payer process designed to serve all. She battled breast cancer since 2004, and shared with the public the most intimate struggles of her bouts with cancer.

She was first diagnosed with cancer in the final weeks of the 2004 presidential campaign, when her husband, who was at the time a U.S. senator from North Carolina, was also the Democratic nominee for vice president.  The couple didn't disclose her illness until after the election.

The cancer went into remission after months of treatment, but it resurfaced in early 2007, as John Edwards was mounting a second run at the White House.  The Edwardses agreed at the time that they wouldn't allow the cancer to derail his candidacy.

Because the cancer had moved into her bones in 2007, her doctors said at that time that it was no longer curable but could be treated.

The Edwards family released the following statement on Monday:

You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.

These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined.

The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.

And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human.

But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious.

And for that I am grateful. It isn't possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know.

With love,

Copyright 2010 WBTV and WRAL. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.