Edwards, who was legally separated from former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She passed away in her Chapel Hill, N.C. home, surrounded by family.
"Today we have lost the comfort of Elizabeth's presence but she remains the heart of this family. We love her and will never know anyone more inspiring or full of life," her family said in a statement. "On behalf of Elizabeth we want to express our gratitude to the thousands of kindred spirits who moved and inspired her along the way. Your support and prayers touched our entire family."
Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and had been in remission until 2007, when she announced the disease had spread. On Monday, the Edwards family announced that her cancer had further spread to her liver, and that doctors had advised her to cease treatment because it would be "unproductive."
"She is resting at home with family and friends," the family said in a statement Monday.
Despite the return of her cancer, Edwards stood by husband John Edwards, then a North Carolina senator, in support of his bid to run for president. He withdrew from the race in 2008 after Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton had taken the clear lead for the Democratic ticket.
Several months later, additional reports surfaced alleging that John had had an affair with and fathered a love child by Rielle Hunter, a videographer for his 2008 presidential campaign. The National Enquirer first broke the story in October 2007.
He denied the reports for several months, but in August 2008 admitted to the affair. In January 2010, he also admitted he was the father of Hunter's 2-year-old-daughter.
John and Elizabeth announced their separation less than a week later.
Edwards wrote autobiographical books about her struggle with cancer and the death of her son eldest son, Wade, who died in a car accident in 1996. Her latest book, Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities, went on sale in June.
On Monday, she took to her Facebook to share her appreciation for those who had supported her through her battle with cancer.
"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. "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 is survived by her three children with John: Cate, 27; Emma Claire, 11, and Jack, 9.
Reps for the Edwards did not immediately respond to TVGuide.com's request for comment.