Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of former North Carolina senator and 2004 vice-presidential candidate, John Edwards, died at the age of 61 on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.

“Today we have lost the comfort of Elizabeth’s presence but she remains the heart of this family,” a statement from her family said. “We love her and will never know anyone more inspiring or full of life.”

According to CNN, Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer after her husband lost his bid to serve as vice-president with presidential candidate John Kerry in the 2004 election.

Apparently, Edwards was aware of her status during the campaign, but did not tell her husband until afterwards. She immediately underwent treatment and the cancer was believed to be in remission. In March 2007, at the beginning of her husband’s 2008 presidential campaign, it was announced that the cancer had returned and spread.

Her oncologist, Dr. Lisa Carey, claimed that the cancer was in metastic stage four, which is confined to the bones.

The cancer was diagnosed as treatable but not curable. Even with this diagnosis in mind, Edwards remained a trooper, supporting her husband’s bid for the White House.

“Either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday or you start dying,” she said. “If I had given up everything that my life was about . . . I’d let cancer win before it needed to.”

She was realistic about the outcome of her battle with cancer, but still remained resilient.

“Maybe eventually it will win,” she said. “But I’d let it win before I needed to.”

Edwards passed away in her family’s home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Below is an ABC news report that describes in greater detail Edwards’ battle with breast cancer, and commemorates her work. Her death reminds us not only of the importance of valuing life and working hard, but also the importance of health and awareness of ourselves.

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