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Elizabeth Edwards, 61, Dies of Breast Cancer

Elizabeth Edwards, an author, attorney and estranged wife of former democratic Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, died today (Dec. 7), according to news reports. She was 61.

Edwards had been battling breast cancer for the last six years and announced yesterday on her Facebook page that she had stopped cancer treatment.

Edwards died at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C., where she was surrounded by friends and family, according to the WRAL-TV station in Raleigh. She leaves her husband John, from whom she separated in 2009, and three children: Cate, 28, Emma Claire, 12, and Jack, 10.

She was diagnosed with cancer at age 55 during her husband's campaign for vice president in 2004, though the couple didn't make her illness public until after the election, according to WRAL.

Her cancer went into remission after months of treatment and surgery, but the stage 4 cancer reappeared in 2007 as John Edwards was considering another run for the White House. At that point, the cancer had metastasized to her bones, and doctors said it was treatable but not curable, WRAL said.

Edwards announced Monday that the cancer spread to her liver, giving her only a slim chance of survival , said Dr. Foluso Ademuyiwa, assistant professor of medicine at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., to AOL Health.

Options for treating stage 4 breast cancer usually include radiation, chemotherapy, surgery and hormonal treatments, according to AOL Health.

"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," Edwards wrote on Facebook on Monday. "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."

Edwards was a graduate of the University of North Carolina Law School and worked at the North Carolina Attorney General's Office before becoming a bankruptcy lawyer, WRAL said. She moved to Washington, D.C., with her family after her husband's election to the Senate.

She most recently worked as a fellow at the progressive think tank Center for American Progress in Washington. She advised President Obama on health care issues and testified before Congress on the national health care reform bill before it was passed.

She also wrote two books. One, a memoir called "Saving Graces," which was published in 2006, told of the pain she felt as she dealt with the death of her son, Wade, 16, who died in a car crash in 1996.

The second, titled "Resilience," detailed the trials she went through while she stood by her husband in 2008 as allegations flew of his extramarital affair with campaign video producer Rielle Hunter. The rumors bubbled to the surface during his run for the presidency, and John Edwards later admitted to the affair and to fathering Hunter's child.

Shortly afterward, Edwards legally separated from him after 32 years of marriage, WRAL said.

Live Science Staff
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