British actor Andy Whitfield, who played a main character on Starz network’s “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” died on Sunday after battling Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer for more than a year.
Whitfield was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in March 2010, to which he began treating in New Zealand and consequently delayed the production of the show's second season.
In June 2010, the 39-year-old actor was able to finish his treatment and was even given a clean bill of health to begin the show's second season. However, his battle with the cancer reoccurred in September 2010.
“He passed peacefully surrounded by love,” said the actor's wife, Vashti, in a statement provided to Associated Press, who called her husband a beautiful young warrior who died on a sunny morning in the arms of his loving wife.
Whitfield, born in Wales and lived in Australia, was a virtual unknown when he was cast as the title hero in Spartacus, a hit original series for the Starz network that was known for its graphic violence and sexuality.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield,” said Chris Albrecht, president and CEO of the Starz network.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur at any age and is often marked by lymph nodes that are larger than normal, fever, and weight loss, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“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 told reporters.
Earlier this year, the network announced that another Australian actor, Liam McIntyre, would take over the series' lead role.
The two primary types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma, which spreads in an orderly manner from one group of lymph nodes to another; and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which spreads through the lymphatic system in a non-orderly manner, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans,” Albrecht added.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimated 66,360 new cases and 19,320 deaths from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States in this year.