Andy Whitfield, the lead actor in Starz' Spartacus: Blood and Sand television series has succumbed to non-Hodgkin lymphoma disease in Australia this past weekend.

On screen, Whitfield's Spartacus character was courageous, a warrior, brave and noble. Off the screen and in real life, many of Whitfield's loved ones, co-stars and fellow actors have used those same words to describe the 39-year-old.

On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18 month battle with lymphoma cancer, Whitfield's wife Vashti Whitfield said in a statement.

The Welsh-born Whitfield leaves behind his wife and two children. He was a virtual unknown when he was picked up by series creator Steven S. DeKnight for the lead role. He had appeared in a handful of movies and TV shows, mostly based out of Australia.

Whitfield was diagnosed with the disease last year prior to the start of the show's second season, which had to be delayed when he dropped out.  The network instead produced a six-part prequel titled Spartacus: Gods of the Arena without him. For the second season, Australian actor Liam McIntyre will replace Whitfield. DeKnight knows there will likely be some resistance.

I absolutely expect resistance. It's absolutely impossible to replicate your lead actor and not expect some reluctance, DeKnight said to TheWrap.com at this year's ComicCon convention.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. According to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, it is the fifth most common form of cancer. Last year in the U.S., there are approximately 66,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and about 19,000 deaths.

As news of his death became public knowledge, those who knew of Whitfield began to honor the man through their words.

No words to express the depth of such a loss. You will be deeply missed, my brother, DeKnight said on Twitter.

Obviously, Andy Whitfield left an indelible mark on all of us in the Spartacus family. Andy's incandescent film presence made men want to be him and women want to marry him, Lucy Lawless, Whitfield's co-star on Spartacus said in a statement.

We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in 'Spartacus' and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life, Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement.