"She was completely devastated at first," a friend tells PEOPLE

By Mike Fleeman
Updated May 18, 2007 06:00 PM
Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

Farrah Fawcett, who was declared cancer-free in February, discovered this week the cancer has returned, PEOPLE has confirmed.

“She was completely devastated at first,” says her close friend Craig Nevius, who produced the Chasing Farrah reality show. “And then, as is her way – as was the case the last time – she became much stronger and started dealing with it, and she’s beginning to make a plan.”

Fawcett got the news after a routine three-month checkup in which doctors discovered a malignant polyp, smaller than a pea, says Nevius.

She was still weighing her treatment options when the National Enquirer reported the cancer’s return.

“She didn’t have a chance to tell some of her family yet,” says Nevius. “It is now clear that the tabloids are as invasive and malignant as cancer.”

Nevius says Fawcett has been in good health and is “not feeling the effects” of the recurrence. She has not settled on a treatment option, he says, but is considering having a small metalic “seed” placed in the area that will emit radiation.

Diagnosed with anal cancer in September 2006, the actress, who starred as Jill Munroe in the ’70s hit Charlie’s Angels, had been declared cancer free by her doctors on Feb. 2, her 60th birthday, after having undergone chemotherapy and radiation.

When she first revealed her condition in October 2006, Fawcett said in a statement, “I am resolutely strong and I am determined to bite the bullet and fight the fight while going through the next six weeks of cutting-edge, state-of-the-art treatment. I should be able to return to my life as it was before at the end of my treatment.”

Fawcett, who’s served as a celebrity spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, had an older sister, Diane, who died of lung cancer in 1998. Her longtime companion, Ryan O’Neal, also successfully battled leukemia after being diagnosed with the disease in 2001.

Fawcett and O’Neal have a 22-year-old son, Redmond. Though the former couple ended their tumultuous 17-year relationship in 1997, O’Neal has been a steadfast presence at Fawcett’s side since her diagnosis.