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'Eat, Pray, Love' Author Reveals She Left Husband for Friend With Terminal Cancer

By Laura Hertzfeld ; Updated August 14, 2017

At one time it seemed like the entire world was rooting for Elizabeth Gilbert to find and stay in love. Then in July she told fans that she and her husband — the object of her affection in “Eat, Pray, Love” (played by Javier Bardem in the movie) — had split.

Today she revealed some shocking and bittersweet news about her love life. Fans were thrilled — and surprised — to find out that Gilbert has fallen in love with her female longtime best friend, musician Rayya Elias. Gilbert often discusses Elias in posts on her Facebook page, and she's familiar to many fans.

The bittersweet part: Elias has been diagnosed with incurable pancreatic and liver cancer.

ME & RAYYA Dear Ones - There is something I wish to tell you today — something which I hope and trust you will receive...

Posted by Elizabeth Gilbert on Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Gilbert first became a household name when her memoir about finding herself after divorce, “Eat, Pray, Love,” took off in 2006. Since then, the book was made into a hit film starring Julia Roberts, and Gilbert has become known as much for her speaking engagements and Oprah-endorsed advice-giving as for her subsequent books.

Gilbert wrote a lengthy and romantic post on Facebook explaining her newfound love with her friend of 15 years — and was open about Rayya’s battle ahead with cancer.

“Many of you already know who Rayya Elias is to me. She’s my best friend, yes, but it’s always been bigger than that. She’s my role model, my traveling companion, my most reliable source of light, my fortitude, my most trusted confidante. In short, she is my PERSON,” Gilbert wrote.

She continued in the post to talk about her new love and what cancer means to their relationship.

“But something happened to my heart and mind in the days and weeks following Rayya’s diagnosis. Death — or the prospect of death — has a way of clearing away everything that is not real, and in that space of stark and utter realness, I was faced with this truth: I do not merely love Rayya; I am in love with Rayya.

“And I have no more time for denying that truth. The thought of someday sitting in a hospital room with her, holding her hand and watching her slide away, without ever having let her (or myself!) know the extent of my true feelings for her … well, that thought was unthinkable.”

There are already nearly 10,000 comments on Gilbert’s post — a huge outpouring of support for the beloved author from her fans. Many of the comments were sympathetic notes about having a loved one with cancer and things that helped them through the tough times as well as those thanking Gilbert for her honest approach to her fans.

You can read her full post here.

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