Angelina Jolie's Aunt Dies of Breast Cancer

05/26/2013 at 06:10 PM EDT

Angelina Jolie's Aunt Dies of Breast Cancer
Angelina Jolie on April 11
Danny Martindale/WireImage
Angelina Jolie's aunt, Debbie Martin, has lost her battle with breast cancer Sunday. She was 61.

The devastating news comes nearly two weeks after Jolie revealed she had a preventative double mastectomy after learning she had tested positive for the "faulty" BRCA gene.

Martin was hospitalized on Wednesday, her husband Ronald Martin, tells PEOPLE. She passed away early Sunday morning.

While Jolie was not able to be with her aunt, she had seen Martin many times since her diagnosis, and both Jolie and her brother James Haven had been in contact throughout this past week to lend their support.

"Angelina has been sending her wishes," says Ron. "She and my wife texted each other. It was difficult for my wife, during the last few months, to communicate."

Martin is the biological sister of Jolie's mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who died after a seven-year battle with ovarian cancer in 2007. Debbie had marked the four-year anniversary of Bertrand's passing with a tribute on the blog Marcheline Bertrand Remembered.

Recounting life without her sister, she wrote: "My heart hurts and I just have to learn to slowly walk with my wounds, step by step, with a hole in my heart, yet carrying cherished memories which keep me whole and holds me up day by day."



As Jolie copes with this loss – and prepares for more surgery to have her ovaries removed – she has her family's support.

"Because of the BRCA gene in the maternal side of the family, Angelina did the smartest thing on earth," says Ron. "It takes a lot of courage to have your breasts removed."

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