Andy Whitfield, who starred in Spartacus: Blood and Sand until illness forced him to leave the Starz series, died Sunday of lymphoma cancer. He was 39.

On a beautiful sunny Sydney ... 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, his wife, Vashti Whitfield, said in a statement.

The Welsh-born actor was diagnosed in March 2010 with treatable non-Hodgkins' lymphoma. After receiving treatment that June, he was pronounced cancer-free and said he would be returning to work on Spartacus. But that September, his cancer recurred, forcing him to pull out of the show to receive more treatment.

Actor Liam McIntyre, who took over the gladiator role, spoke of Whitfield's generosity during a press tour this summer:

He's gotten in contact with me, and he I mean, the guy has got, I know from experience now, the job that you dream of getting, McIntyre said of Whitfield. It's the job of a lifetime, and then he's met with this tragic circumstance. And he's still got the strength of character to contact me and say, 'Good luck. Well done,' and give me some tips and advice on how to get through the grueling schedule. I think that speaks volumes of a man. He's fantastic.

Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht said he was deeply saddened by Whitfield's death.

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, Albrecht said in a statement. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace.