Gary Robichaud, who has been battling inoperable lung cancer for almost two years, announced Thursday his resignation as leader of the P.E.I. New Democrats.
Mr. Robichaud, 42, said fighting the disease while trying to balance two full-time jobs as a high school teacher and party leader became too much.
"Basically, I just ran out of steam," Mr. Robichaud said from his home in Ross's Corner, P.E.I.
"I'll always be a loyal New Democrat, but I'm certainly happy to be fading in the background for a while. I need the rest and I need some time with my family."
Mr. Robichaud wouldn't rule out a comeback, though.
"If miracle upon miracle happens and my health takes a positive turn and things work out really well for me, you never say no in politics," he said.
A persistent cough during the September 2003 provincial election campaign led two months later to the cancer diagnosis.
"As you can imagine, this is very serious and I will need all the strength I can to carry on and try to fight this," Mr. Robichaud said at the time.
"The prognosis is uncertain. The prognosis in general is not very good, I'll be candid with you."
The party said it accepted Mr. Robichaud's resignation with great reluctance.
James Rodd, party president, said the executive understood it was time for Mr. Robichaud to concentrate on his family and his health problems.
"These last few months have been very stressful for Gary, feeling that he was unable to do enough for the party, while the executive believes he has all along served above and beyond the call of duty," said Mr. Rodd.
Liberal Leader Robert Ghiz said Mr. Robichaud deserves the thanks of all Islanders for his dedication to public life.
"I have always admired Mr. Robichaud's obvious dedication to the job of New Democrat leader and I would like to congratulate him on a job well done," Mr. Ghiz said in a statement.
Premier Pat Binns was unavailable for comment.
Mr. Robichaud said his health hasn't gotten appreciably worse and he's started a new, experimental treatment.
"I realized that the party needs much more, and I came to the realization that dealing with this kind of illness that priorities had to be shifted. My family needs to come first now."
Mr. Robichaud and the party do not have a seat in the P.E.I. legislature. He became leader in April 2002.