Battling Cancer Again

updated 06/04/2007 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/04/2007 AT 01:00 AM EDT

When Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O'Neal and their son Redmond, 22, stepped out for lunch May 17 at Los Angeles's Early World restaurant, fellow diners were impressed by how all seemed to be so right with their world. "Farrah looked beautiful and happy," says one onlooker. But on that day, despite appearances, Fawcett was actually coping with the worst kind of news: The cancer she thought she had triumphed over just a few months ago was back.

The discovery is a severe blow for the actress, who on Feb. 2 celebrated her 60th birthday by announcing she'd been declared free of the cancer that had put her life on hold. "She was completely devastated at first," says Fawcett's friend Craig Nevius, who produced her 2005 reality show Chasing Farrah. "And then, as is her way, she became much stronger and started dealing with it."

Fawcett learned of the recurrence of her anal cancer in mid-May during a routine exam following her six-week course of chemotherapy and radiation. Doctors found a malignant polyp smaller than a pea. Disheartened, she wondered, "Why did I go through the chemo?" says Nevius, who spoke to Fawcett on the phone shortly after she got the diagnosis.

Fawcett, who has been feeling well enough to keep up her regular games of racquetball, is weighing her treatment options. She is considering brachytherapy, a minimally invasive procedure in which tiny, radioactive "seeds" or sources are placed in the area of the polyp.

With her prognosis unclear, Fawcett has turned to her loved ones for support, particularly O'Neal, 66. The couple, who shared a kiss after their May 17 lunch, rekindled their longtime on-and-off relationship in 2006, and Fawcett has leaned on O'Neal through her treatment. "Farrah and Ryan share an enchanted romance, and they will endure this tragic storm together," says Fawcett's friend Joan Dangerfield. "He makes her feel warm, good and cherished. That kind of emotional support is essential to her recovery."

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