In a new interview with NBC News' Meredith Vieira, Ryan O'Neal opens up about his longtime companion Farrah Fawcett's battle with cancer.
Fawcett, 62, was originally diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she was declared cancer free by her doctors on Feb. 2, 2007 -- her 60th birthday. But the cancer returned a few months later, spreading to other parts of her body, including her liver.
"It's insidious, cancer," O'Neal tells Vieira in the interview, airing Wednesday and Thursday on the Today show. "It lets you think you're ahead."
Fawcett thought she was ahead "for a couple of years," O'Neal said. "She was athletic and healthy and hungry and beautiful. Everything was just as you remember about her."
But he realized for the first time that she wasn't well "five or six months ago" -- when their troubled son Redmond "wasn't in jail," he notes -- while the three of them were walking on the beach.
"We used to take that walk all the time to the rocks and back," O'Neal says. "And halfway there she stopped and said, 'Can we go back?' And Red and I looked at each other and we knew."
After being by Fawcett's side through it all, O'Neal says he can't describe his love for her.
"I know this, that in the last two years I loved her more than I've ever loved her - ever," he says. "She's so much more of a woman and a powerful, courageous, fearless and all those adjectives. And I look at her with awe."
"And she's not afraid, either," O'Neal continues. "I never saw fear at all. She asked me once: Am I gonna make it? She asked me that a couple of weeks ago."
"I said, 'Yeah, sure, you'll make it. And if you don't, I'll go with you,'" says O'Neal. "And she said, 'Then stop the Gleevec.' And the Gleevec's the medicine that I take for my leukemia. So she made a joke."
Although those close to the couple call O'Neal "the rock," the actor says, "She's the rock. She taught us all how to cope. She's extraordinary. I
don't know what I'll do without her, to tell you the truth."
On Monday, Fawcett's rep downplayed stories about the actress' illness after O'Neal remarked last week that her treatment "has pretty much ended." The rep told Usmagazine.com, "She never stopped getting treatment."
A family source told Us Monday that doctors in Germany -- where Fawcett was treated earlier this year -- are now developing alternative medicines for the actress.
Interviewed by Vieira, Fawcett's pal Alana Stewart said the treatments are "very traditional."
"They go in through your main artery and they go into the organ and they inject chemo directly into the tumor or tumor," she explained. "You know, into the organ. And [the doctor] has been doing it for 15 years. It's very standard procedure for him to do. They're starting to do it now in trials here. But it's nothing hocus-pocus. They're not crazy, alternative things, they're actually medical things. You know, by medical doctors.
Her family remains hopeful. An insider tells Us, "They have not written her off."
A new two-hour documentary, Farrah's Story, also airs Friday on NBC.