"The last three days it was a rapid decline," an insider tells PEOPLE

By Tomás Mier and Charlotte Triggs
October 06, 2020 06:55 PM
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Eddie Van Halen's health was in "rapid decline" over the last few days after suffering from cancer for years, sources tell PEOPLE.

As the legendary guitarist, who died on Tuesday at 65, battled the disease, his family made sure to protect him during the coronavirus pandemic, a source close to Van Halen tells PEOPLE.

"During the quarantine, everyone around Eddie was even more cautious about his health and his family truly protected him," the source says. "He had throat cancer for years but it spread — it was in all his organs."

"The last three days it was a rapid decline," the source adds. “Sadly, the hard-partying lifestyle physically takes its toll on you eventually."

Eddie Van Halen
| Credit: Jerod Harris/Getty

Another insider tells PEOPLE that while "everybody knew that he had cancer," many close to Van Halen were unaware of the extent of his illness.

"He's had it for years but nobody knew it was this serious," the second source says.

Van Halen's death will hit his 29-year-old son Wolf especially hard since the two were "so tight," the insider adds.

“He and Wolfie were incredibly close," the source says, referring to Wolf by his family nickname. "It's a huge loss to his son in particular because they were so tight."

Wolf, who joined Van Halen as the band's bassist in 2006, shared the sad news on social media. He wrote that his "heart is broken" after the death of his father.

"I don't think I'll ever fully recover from this loss," he wrote. "I love you so much, Pop."

Wolf, Wolf's mother and Van Halen's ex-wife of 20 years Valerie Bertinelli and his current wife Janie Liszewski were at the hospital with the rocker when he died.

Eddie Van Halen
| Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty

Before his battle with throat cancer, Van Halen had a bout with tongue cancer in 2000. He defeated the illness in 2002.

"He changed music. He changed the perception of the electric guitar," Lenny Kravitz told PEOPLE of Van Halen Tuesday afternoon. "He did things with the electric guitar that no one did — he is a pioneer and I mean, the music so incredible."