Fawcett, 62, waged a hard-fought battle against anal cancer, which spread throughout her body and, in her final months, forced her to shave off her signature blonde locks.
One year after the death of Farrah Fawcett, the actress’ longtime love, Ryan O’Neal, said he still feels the loss acutely. “I see her voice, I hear her silhouette,” he told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday. “I miss her cooking.”
But the actor takes consolation in the belief that Farrah would be proud of their son, Redmond, and how he has turned his drug-plagued life around.
“I’m greatly relieved and gratified by his progress in the last year,” O’Neal told Vieira via satellite from Los Angeles, the day before the first anniversary of Fawcett’s death from anal cancer. “We see him all the time, and he’s beautiful. His mother would be very proud of him.”
Time to grieve
However, there have been bumps along the road toward recovery for Redmond, who has been in and out of jail and rehab facilities in recent years for felony drug arrests. The 24-year-old’s last visit with his mother came weeks before her June 25, 2009 death after a three-year cancer battle: Authorities allowed him to visit his mother’s bedside, but only while bound in chains.
In late December, O’Neal was granted a furlough from his in-patient rehab, but when he returned, he admitted to counselors he had used drugs. He was put into a 30-day jail rehab facility.
O’Neal told Vieira the backslide “was a little mistake” on Redmond’s part, but he’s since made progress and is living in a sober house in Pasadena, Calif. O’Neal says he looks forward to the day, hopefully this fall, when Redmond will be back at home and the pair can finally share their grief with each other in person.
“We haven’t done it together yet,” O’Neal told Vieira. “I know he grieves and I grieve, but we really haven’t put our heads together.
“We thought maybe we should take a trip and do it that way, but that hasn’t happened,” O’Neal added. “He’s not allowed to leave the state, and that will go on for another few months. But he has good reports, he sees a judge once a month, and keeps getting everything in order.”
O’Neal said grieving on his own has been difficult. At the time of Fawcett’s death last year, he told TODAY: “I’m the new rock. I’m using what [Farrah] taught me to survive and go on.” But on Thursday he admitted it’s been difficult to live up to that.
“It was brave talk,” he said. “It’s harder than I thought. I miss her. We all miss her.”
O’Neal had been with Fawcett since 1982, although the pair never married. Today he continues living in the L.A. home they shared, and still imagines her presence there: “It’s kind of wonderful she’s still around, and in another way it hurts that not enough of her is.”
As O’Neal spoke from L.A., Fawcett’s best friend, Alana Stewart, visited Studio 1A to discuss one of the actress’s legacies — the Farrah Fawcett Foundation to raise funds and awareness for anal cancer. Stewart told Vieira the foundation’s offices will open Friday, the anniversary of her death.
“I think she would be very pleased,” Stewart said. “It meant a lot to her and we’re happy to carry out her wishes. She basically wanted to do something to fight this terrible disease. She wanted to fund research for alternative methods of treatment.”
During her long battle with cancer, Fawcett traveled with Stewart to Germany to seek alternative methods of treatment not approved in the U.S. Those treatments were featured in the two-hour NBC television documentary “Farrah’s Story,” which aired just days before Fawcett’s death at age 62.
“She felt there was a cure out there somewhere, and in some of the cutting edge things that they are doing, the kind of things she had in Germany,” Stewart told Vieira. “I still think that was the most beneficial treatment she had, and it kept her alive longer than she would have been.
“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Stewart told Vieira. “I miss talking to her on the phone and laughing. She had the most amazing sense of humor … Everything was always more fun when she was there.”
And O’Neal added that he misses his lover’s expertise in the kitchen. “I haven’t had a good meal since she left me,” he said.