Ryan O'Neal Recounts Farrah Fawcett's 'Terrible' Year

05/13/2009 AT 08:50 AM EDT

Describing Farrah Fawcett as "a fighter … committed to tell her story, no matter what happens," Today show co-host Meredith Vieira turned to the cancer-stricken actress's longtime companion, Ryan O'Neal, to delve into such topics as their troubled 24-year-old son Redmond, the couple's own tumultuous relationship and, of course, Fawcett's nearly three-year health battle.

"I think she may have believed that she would survive," says O'Neal, 68. "That's not how it's going. She's had a terrible time in the last year, a terrible time."

On Friday, NBC will air Farrah's Story, a two-hour documentary that Fawcett, 62, herself began filming when her initial diagnosis was revealed Sept. 22, 2006. In scenes from it shown on Wednesday's Today show, the glamorous Fawcett of golden mane and perky frame was juxtaposed with footage of her being sick to her stomach in a hospital bed.

At one point she can be heard saying, "I wish it would just be over."

"There were times that she got terribly ill and began to vomit," says O'Neal. Nevertheless, the camera kept rolling. "She didn't care," he says. "She was possessed. She's been on film all her life, since she was 19 or 20, you know. So, I guess, no big deal."

'He's in Jail So Much'

O'Neal also is forthright about his son's problems with heroin, and references a moment the boy shared with his mother by saying it was one of the few times Redmond was out of jail. "He's in jail so much," says the elder O'Neal. But he also adds a touching note about mother and son.

"When she lost her hair [to chemotherapy], he shaved his head," says O'Neal. "So, the two of them … I didn't know which was which."

Of their possibly final meeting in her bedroom, for which Redmond's jail shackles had to be unlocked, O'Neal says, "He just wanted to see her, to hold her, to apologize. He's so full of shame for his mistakes. She forgave him."

And of the famous clashes between O'Neal and Fawcett during their decades together, he now says, "Not so bad."

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