CHARLES SYKES / REX FEATURES
At the Aug. 27 Emmys Farrah Fawcett made a triumphant appearance, reuniting with her Charlie's Angels costars Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. For Fawcett, the public reunion – to honor the late TV producer Aaron Spelling – was an emotional boost, a career highlight, a chance to savor the public's enduring affection and applause. But in the days following, despite her good spirits, she knew something wasn't right. She told friends she felt fatigued. "She had been playing a lot of sports and paddleball, and she was saying, 'My body is just killing me,' " says Craig Nevius, a Fawcett pal and producer of Fawcett's 2005 TV Land reality show Chasing Farrah.
When she couldn't shake her exhaustion, she began to suspect something was seriously wrong. "She thought maybe she had eaten some spinach and had the E. coli [virus]," says her friend Joan Dangerfield (widow of comic Rodney Dangerfield). So in mid-September, Fawcett, 59, went for a physical. After two weeks of tests, Fawcett was devastated to hear on Sept. 29 the diagnosis: anal cancer. Suddenly the famously athletic woman who played fierce weekly games of tennis – and was set to launch her endorsement of a beverage line called O.C. Energy drinks – was pondering her chances of survival. When Fawcett called her the next day, says Dangerfield, she was in tears: "It was such a shock. Farrah has always been so healthy. She was crying. I was crying."