'Charlie's Angels' star Farrah Fawcett was 'a fighter' during cancer battle, pal says: 'She wanted to live'

 Alana Stewart, president of the Farrah Fawcett Foundation, is leading the upcoming 'Tex-Mex Fiesta' fundraiser in honor of the late star

Farrah Fawcett had no intention of losing her battle with cancer.

In 2007, months after the "Charlie’s Angels" star was declared cancer-free by doctors, the actress learned the disease had returned. The TV icon had been fighting anal cancer since 2006.

The cancer had metastasized to Fawcett’s liver and the illness ultimately claimed her. She passed away in 2009 at age 62, surrounded by her longtime partner Ryan O’Neal, as well as friends Alana Stewart and Mela Murphy.

A close-up of Farrah Fawcett smiling and leaning into Alana Stewart

Alana Stewart, right, described her pal Farrah Fawcett as a fighter, one who was determined to beat cancer. (Alana Stewart)

"Right up until the very end, she was such a fighter," Stewart, now president of the Farrah Fawcett Foundation, told Fox News Digital.

On Sept. 23, the foundation will host "Tex-Mex Fiesta" to help raise funds for cancer research and patient assistance for those faced with mounting medical bills. The event, named after Fawcett’s favorite food, is chaired by Stewart, as well as Linda Gray and Jaclyn Smith. This year’s festivities will be hosted by George Hamilton, Stewart's ex-husband.

Alana Stewart next to members of the Tex-Mex Fiesta

From left to right, Alana Stewart, President/CEO of The Farrah Fawcett Foundation, Linda Gray, Jaclyn Smith and George Hamilton attend the 2022 Farrah Fawcett Foundation Tex-Mex Fiesta Benefit on October 20, 2022, in Dallas. (Rick Kern/Getty Images for Farrah Fawcett Foundation)

"Farrah was a very determined person in everything she did," Stewart shared. "She looked at cancer as a battle that she was determined to win. She didn’t like to lose. She was very competitive. She was determined to win this battle. She was determined to start her foundation, run it and live her life."


Farrah Fawcett wearing a sea green swear and a white shirt leaning next to Alana Stewart in a white sweater

Alana Stewart, left, said Farrah Fawcett remained hopeful about winning her battle against cancer. (Alana Stewart)

"She kept going when a lot of people wouldn’t," Stewart continued. "She went through a lot of painful procedures. She went through it all with such amazing grace, dignity and courage. It’s sad to say that she lost this battle, but in a way, I think it was her finest hour. She showed the world what she was made of… She loved life. She wanted to live. She wanted to be there for her son and Ryan. No one wants to die, but she had such a determination to not give up. And she was so determined right until the very end."

"In the last two months of her life, a nurse said, ‘I’ve never seen anyone fight like this. I’ve never seen anyone so determined to live,’" Stewart added.

A black and white close-up of Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett, circa 1970. The actress met Alana Stewart, a model, while out on auditions. (Getty Images)

Before "Charlie’s Angels" skyrocketed Fawcett to fame in the ‘70s, the actress met Stewart while out on auditions for commercials. At the time, both women had arrived in Los Angeles and were gearing up to launch their careers. But it wouldn’t be until after the hit series came to an end in 1981 that the pair connected at a celebrity tennis tournament. At the time, Stewart was married to Rod Stewart, and the couple was expecting their daughter, Kimberly Stewart. A friendship blossomed.

Alana Stewart and Farrah Fawcett wearing matching sleeveless black dresses

Alana Stewart, left, and Farrah Fawcett first met when they were aspiring actresses and models in Hollywood. (Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

"She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever known," Stewart recalled. "She could read over a contract and pick out things that agents and attorneys missed. She was very sharp. I don’t think she got enough credit for how intelligent she was. She was so funny. She had a great sense of humor and just loved to laugh. She was like the popular girl in high school you wanted to hang out with. She was also an amazing sculptor. She didn’t have to read someone else’s lines. She could just be herself."

"Now, I’m not saying she was perfect. She did have her Texas temper, that’s for sure!" Stewart added.

The cast of Charlies Angels sitting down and looking directly at the camera

The cast of "Charlie’s Angels" from left to right, Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson. (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Fawcett first became a sought-after pinup after she posed for a poster wearing a red swimsuit. The image of Fawcett’s feathered blonde mane and megawatt smile sold more than twice as many copies of posters featuring Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable combined, The New York Times reported. While the sex symbol was later praised for her more serious roles, she forever became associated with Jill Munroe, one of the three dazzling detectives from "Charlie’s Angels."


Farrah Fawcett and Alana Stewart wearing matching long sleeved black sweaters

According to Alana Stewart, right, Farrah Fawcett first noticed symptoms while she was taking care of her mother in Texas. (Alana Stewart)

According to Stewart, Fawcett was exhibiting some symptoms while she was taking care of her mother in Texas for a couple of months. The matriarch later passed away in 2005 at age 91.

"Her mother was dying," Stewart recalled. "And then she started having a few symptoms while she was there [in Texas] but ignored them. She was taking care of her mom and that was her focus. But when she came back, Ryan said, ‘You’ve got to go to the doctor and get this checked out.’ So she did. They did a colonoscopy and that’s when they found it."

"That’s part of our mission statement – awareness and prevention," said Stewart. "It’s so important to catch things early. Maybe when she started having symptoms, if she had listened to her body and had gone to a doctor, then maybe the outcome might have been different. It’s so easy to put aside any symptoms because you think, ‘Oh, it’s not serious,’ or, ‘I’ll just deal with it next week, next month.'"

Farrah Fawcett and Alana Stewart wearing white tank tops while Alana holds a martini glass

Farrah Fawcett, left, was declared cancer-free on her 60th birthday. The disease returned three months later. (Alana Stewart)

"With cancer, early detection is everything," Stewart stressed. "So many cancers can be cured now if you catch them early enough. With Farrah, hers was already Stage 4. If she had done something about the symptoms early on, she could very well be alive today."

Stewart said she was in Germany in 2006 when her daughter asked her, "Is it true about Farrah? Does she have cancer?" Stewart admitted she was stunned.

"I just thought it was tabloid BS," said Stewart. "They seemed to hound Farrah all her life. But this time, I just had a weird feeling. I thought, ‘It’s certainly not true, but I’m going to call her anyway.’ It must have been nighttime in Los Angeles when I called her. I remember it took her a very long time to pick up the phone. When she finally picked up, I said, ‘Listen, I just heard this crazy rumor about you having cancer.’ She just started to cry. That’s how I found out."


Farrah Fawcett and Alana Stewart wearing black while Farrah Fawcett wears black sunglasses

Farrah Fawcett, left, kept a video diary that detailed her journey with cancer. Alana Stewart was by her side. (Alana Stewart)

Fawcett was familiar with cancer. Her older sister Diane died of lung cancer in 1998. O’Neal successfully battled leukemia after he was diagnosed in 2001. Fawcett quickly underwent chemotherapy and radiation. She was declared cancer-free on her 60th birthday, but three months later, a checkup revealed the illness had returned.

Farrah Fawcett in a sparkly dress cuddling up next to Ryan ONeal in a suit and bowtie

Farrah Fawcett's longtime love Ryan O'Neal remained by the star's side. (Robin Platzer/Getty Images)

Fawcett was still weighing her treatment options when tabloids revealed her diagnosis to the world.

"When doctors first told her she was cancer-free, we all celebrated," Stewart recalled. "It was just fantastic news. And then three months later, we learned that the cancer came back very aggressively. And it spread to her liver. It was not a good diagnosis. That’s when she said to me, ‘What about Germany?’ We got on a plane a few days later. That’s when she handed me her camera because she had been filming her meetings with doctors and wanted to remember what they said. I didn’t even know how to use a camera. She had to teach me."

Farrah Fawcett in a grey sweater with Alana Stewart wearing a blue dress

Farrah Fawcett, right, made several trips to Germany for alternative treatments. (Alana Stewart)

Fawcett made several trips to Germany to seek alternative treatments that were not allowed in the U.S. The star chose to chronicle her journey in a video diary that was transformed into a documentary, "Farrah’s Story." Stewart was by her side.

The Emmy-nominated film was viewed by 15 million people.

"She wanted to keep the whole thing private," said Stewart. "We later found out how these stories were getting out. So she had no choice but to go public. But then, so many people wrote her letters, thanking her for speaking out. So many of them shared their personal stories. So many of them described feeling alone. Anal cancer has such a shameful connotation… But after she spoke out, people learned about it. It wasn’t a word people were afraid to say anymore."

"She didn’t want to give up," said Stewart.


Farrah Fawcett wearing a pink shirt next to Alana Stewart wearing a blue sweater

At first, things looked promising for Farrah Fawcett, left. "She didn't want to give up," said Alana Stewart. (Alana Stewart)

Throughout her medical saga, Fawcett remained hopeful. There were even some laughs along the way.

"Whenever we were together, we were always looking for good Tex-Mex food," Stewart chuckled. "I remembered we were in Germany driving to the clinic, which was a four-hour drive. She was lying in the back of a van and it was nighttime.  I looked out and I see a Whataburger. I was floored. A Whataburger in the middle of Germany? I told Farrah and she immediately said, ‘Pull over.’ She was supposed to be eating very lightly, but she said, ‘I want a Whataburger and a Coca-Cola.' She wrapped herself in a blanket and, in the middle of the night, we entered this Whataburger together. That always makes me smile. She was always so determined."

Farrah Fawcett leaning in for a kiss

The 2009 Emmy-nominated documentary "Farrah’s Story" was viewed by 15 million people. (Kiss/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Fawcett was thinking of her future. She wanted to run a foundation that would help others faced with anal cancer. But the illness was worsening.

"It was tough seeing her during those last couple of months," Stewart admitted. "I know in the beginning she was so excited and wanted to get back to her life. But then… she was just so frail. Things just started to go downhill. And yet, she kept her sense of humor. Even in the worst of times, when she was in so much pain and suffering, she was always kind to everyone… And then those last few weeks… it was tough."

Stewart said she and O’Neal, now 82, learned on each other for support.


Farrah Fawcett wearing a green cover-up next to Alana Stewart in a bikini

Farrah Fawcett, left, died on June 25, 2009 at the age of 62. (Alana Stewart)

"He was there by her side every moment," said Stewart. "We didn’t want to admit that things weren’t looking good. I don’t think Farrah did either. She was determined to keep on fighting. And we were going to be there for her. But I think there came a time when we all just looked at each other and just knew. She wasn’t going to get better."

Murphy later told People magazine that the last thing Fawcett said before she died was "Redmond" – her son’s name.

Today, the Farrah Fawcett Foundation supports cutting-edge research into HPV-related cancers, as well as prevention programs. After Fawcett’s death, the star’s estate asked Stewart to oversee the foundation.

Alana Stewart wearing a black and gold dress next to Farrah Fawcett in a black cocktail dress

Alana Stewart, left, president of the Farrah Fawcett Foundation, is determined to keep her beloved friend's legacy alive. (Alana Stewart)

"We’ve given almost $4 million to cancer research and patient assistant funds, which has helped open doors to so many people in need," said Stewart. "Hopefully one day, that research will lead to a cure. I think Farrah would be proud. Farrah was many things, but I want my friend to be remembered for how courageous she was."

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