How Ryan O’Neal Embraced Life While Having Leukemia and Then Prostate Cancer in the Past 20 Years

The 'Love Story' actor died at age 82 on Dec. 8

<p>Getty</p> Ryan O


Ryan O'Neal

Ryan O'Neal shared his positive outlook on life after years of living with chronic illnesses in a recent interview before his death.

In 2021, the Paper Moon actor — who died on Dec. 8 at age 82 — spoke to PEOPLE about embracing life after being diagnosed with chronic myelogemous leukemia in 2001 and prostate cancer in 2012.

“I'm proud of them, I've survived them,” O’Neal said of his illnesses at the time. “I thought I was gone. And suddenly I come back. Not the same man I was, but I'm back.”

O'Neal was diagnosed with leukemia at age 60, just after the turn of the century. He underwent treatment for the illness, his rep confirmed, per ABC, at the time.

"It is treatable and he is doing very well," they told the outlet.

Per the Mayo Clinic, the disease "is an uncommon type of cancer of the bone marrow" and is treated with targeted therapy, bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy.

<p>Getty</p> O'Neal embraced life well into his later years following chronic illnesses


O'Neal embraced life well into his later years following chronic illnesses

Related: Inside Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett's Love Story: 'I Loved Her with All My Heart'

He entered remission for leukemia, but shared in 2012 that he had received a second cancer diagnosis.

“Recently I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer,” the actor said in a statement at the time. “Although I was shocked and stunned by the news, I feel fortunate that it was detected early and according to my extraordinary team of doctors the prognosis is positive for a full recovery.”

The following year, in 2013, O'Neal spoke about his reaction to his second cancer diagnosis and his feelings about being in remission once more.

"It shook me. It shook me up. It shook my family up," he said, per the Prostate Cancer Research Institute, as he sat with Dr. Duke Bahn, director of the Prostate Institute of America at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, who explained that the actor had undergone focal cryotherapy to treat the cancer.

"I'm cancer-free and I plan to stay that way," O'Neal continued. "As long as I'm examined every three months or so, and they keep tabs on my progress, I feel the sky's the limit."

O’Neal, who spoke to PEOPLE in the 50th anniversary year of his film Love Story, also discussed his undying love for late actress and his former partner, Farrah Fawcett, who he reunited with following his leukemia diagnosis, Fawcett moved back into his home in Malibu at the time and the pair stayed together until her death in 2009.

<p>Getty</p> O'Neal was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001 and prostate cancer in 2012


O'Neal was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001 and prostate cancer in 2012

“She was amazing. I miss her so much. 10 years later, I miss her so much. I long for her,” he told PEOPLE.

O’Neal and Fawcett were in an on-and-off relationship from 1979 to 1997 and shared son Redmond, born in 1985. The actress was supported by O’Neal years later after her anal cancer diagnosis before she died aged 62 from the illness. “It’s a love story,” O’Neal said of their relationship to PEOPLE in 2009. “I just don’t know how to play this one. I won’t know this world without her.”

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<p>Robin Platzer/Getty</p> O'Neal spoke about his love for ex Fawcett following her death in 2009

Robin Platzer/Getty

O'Neal spoke about his love for ex Fawcett following her death in 2009

During his 2021 PEOPLE interview, O'Neal discussed the 1970 classic Love Story, which he starred in opposite Ali Macgraw, and his recent experiences promoting the film for the 50th anniversary across the country with his former costar. He noted at the time that he was also focused on his health, but looking to the future.

O’Neal told PEOPLE that he was “working on his health” and that he will be “back on the road” afterward.

"I've just been on the road with Ali doing love letters all over the country, nine cities,” O’Neal said. “And she's still amazing. Still amazing. And they asked me questions about... Do you have a romantic relationship? And I said, ‘no, she locks her door,' ” the actor joked.

Related: Ryan O'Neal Reunites with Daughter Tatum O'Neal and Grandkids After 'Years of Hardship'

Speaking about his legacy to PEOPLE in the same interview, O’Neal said that he wasn’t sure what that would be. “Oh, I've had so many stories told about me that I don't even know what my legacy is,” O’Neal said. “You know, it's like climbing out from under. I'm not aiming at a legacy, you know?”

O’Neal’s death was announced by second son, sportcaster Patrick, on Friday.

"My father Ryan O’Neal has always been my hero," he wrote on Instagram. "I looked up to him and he was always bigger than life." The sportscaster added that his father “passed away peacefully.”

<p>Matthew Simmons/Getty</p> O'Neal died at age 82 on Dec. 8

Matthew Simmons/Getty

O'Neal died at age 82 on Dec. 8

“I feel great sorrow with my father's passing. He meant the world to me,” Tatum, 60, told PEOPLE on Friday. “I loved him very much and know he loved me too. I'll miss him forever and I feel very lucky that we ended on such good terms."

O’Neal's cause of death is yet to be announced. He is survived by his children: Tatum and Griffin, 59, shared with Joanna Moore; Patrick, 56, shared with Leigh Taylor-Young; and Redmond.

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