Santa Monica, CA — Five Easy Pieces star Karen Black died Thursday. She was 74.
Black’s husband, Stephen Eckelberry, said his wife died from complications from cancer. He announced his wife’s death on his Facebook page.
“It is with great sadness that I have to report that my wife and best friend, Karen Black has just passed away, only a few minutes ago,” he wrote. “Thank you all for all your prayers and love, they meant so much to her as they did to me.”
In an August 7 post on his blog shortly before Black’s death, Eckelberry wrote, “I have given up predicting what is going to happen to Karen. In June family members flew in fearing the worse, but Karen is still here. You look at the scans, they tell you one thing, then you meet Karen, and what you are left with is how amazingly alive she is.”
Black was diagnosed with ampullary cancer in November 2010 and had a third of her pancreas removed. The rare disease is named for the ampulla of Vater, where the pancreatic and bile ducts meet. The disease can block bile from flowing through the bile duct into the small intestine, which causes the skin and eyes to become jaundiced.
In 2011, Black was declared cancer-free. But in March of this year, a fundraising page was set up to help raise money for her to undergo an experimental treatment in Europe that wasn’t covered by insurance.
Black was initially being treated at St. John’s Hospital for bacterial infections and other complications. She was eventually moved into a nursing facility with the assistance of the Motion Picture Television Fund. She was unable to make the trip to Europe for treatment.
Black was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Rayette in Five Easy Pieces. She was also nominated for three Golden Globes Awards and won two.
Karen Black is survived by her husband and two children, a son and a daughter.