People Staff
May 21, 2001 12:00 PM

O’Neal confronts leukemia

Shooting the movie People I Know in March, Ryan O’Neal appeared the picture of health—vigorous and in righting trim. “He told me he had been working out and playing a lot of squash,” says coproducer Leslie Urdang. “He kept us on the move.” So colleagues were truly astonished at O’Neal’s public announcement May 2 that he is battling cancer. Last month doctors at L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center diagnosed O’Neal, 60, with chronic myelogenous leukemia, in which white blood cells multiply unchecked—an eerie reminder of the illness that took his onscreen wife’s life in 1970’s Love Story. (The character’s malady went unnamed in the film, but in the novella was leukemia.) “It’s treatable, and he’s doing very well,” says his agent Dede Binder.

Until recently the only possible cure was a bone-marrow transplant. But in early trials of a new experimental drug, Gleevec, more than 90 percent of patients had their white-blood-cell counts return to normal. (Binder would not discuss O’Neal’s treatment.) O’Neal is also receiving a healing dose of TLC. Now dating actress Leslie Stefanson, 30, he has four children from marriages to actresses Leigh Taylor-Young and the late Joanna Moore, and from his long relationship with Farrah Fawcett. “He is going to get through this great obstacle with 100 percent support from my family and me,” said Tatum O’Neal, 37, Moore’s daughter, a mother of three who has patched up her strained relationship with her father and is engaged to movie executive Steven Hutensky. “Ryan has an amazingly positive attitude about everything,” says George Newbern, who costars with the actor on TNT’s Bull. “I don’t think this will sideline him.”

Harrison undergoes surgery for a growth in his lung

I’m not going to die on you folks just yet,” George Harrison said in 1998 after undergoing successful radiation treatment for throat cancer. “I am very lucky.” But there were other scares to come. On May 3, Harrison, 58, revealed that he recently underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs. “The operation was successful, and George has made an excellent recovery,” Harrison’s lawyers said in a statement. “He is in the best of spirits and [in] top form.” Now recuperating on vacation in Tuscany with wife Olivia, 53, Harrison has told friends he expects a complete recovery.

The news follows a January interview in USA Today in which Harrison disclosed that in addition to his past bout with throat cancer—which he blamed on his long-time smoking habit—he also had a piece of a lung removed in 1997. Long secretive about his private life, Harrison did not say why the surgery was necessary, but a close friend says it was also for lung cancer. His doctors have declined to comment on his health woes.

Harrison has also been recovering from another ordeal: On Dec. 30,1999, an intruder broke into the musician’s home near London, puncturing one of Harrison’s lungs with a knife before Olivia knocked him out with a lamp. (The assailant, an obsessed Beatles hater, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to a mental hospital.) Harrison has lately been feeling “the most relaxed and free since the attack,” his statement said. “I am sure he is going to be okay,” says pal Bob Rose, a record producer. “He is a pretty resilient character.”

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