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Elizabeth Edwards gravely ill

Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has spread, and her health has deteriorated, her family said in a statement Monday.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has spread, and her health has deteriorated, her family said in a statement Monday.

Edwards, 61, the estranged wife of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, was briefly hospitalized recently, but she is now at home, where her family and friends, including John Edwards, are lending their support.

"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," Edwards wrote in a message posted Monday on her Facebook page. "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."

Edwards 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 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.

Doctors now have recommended she not receive further treatment, according to the statement from her family.

Elizabeth Edwards has written two books about how she has overcome adversity in her life, "Resilience" and "Saving Graces."

She and her husband separated about a year ago after more than 30 years of marriage. The split followed John Edwards' affair with a campaign staffer.

The couple has four children: Wade, who died in a vehicle wreck in 1996; Cate, a lawyer in Washington, D.C.; and Emma Claire, 12, and Jack, 10, who both live in Chapel Hill with their mother.


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