Fans were shocked and heartbroken when Jeff Bridges took to Twitter in late October to reveal he'd been diagnosed with lymphoma at age 70.
"Although it is a serious disease, I feel fortunate that I have a great team of doctors and the prognosis is good," the star shared. "I'm starting treatment and will keep you posted on my recovery."
Two weeks later, he appeared in good spirits while hooked up to IVs in a photo posted on his website. "I'm feeling so much love coming my way," he wrote, "and man, I appreciate it."
As the veteran actor hunkers down for the fight of his life, an OK! insider reveals he's feeling optimistic. "Jeff isn't ready to throw in the towel anytime soon. He's going to listen to his doctors and fight this thing," says the insider of the Tron star, who's been leaning on his wife of 43 years, Susan Geston, 67, and their three daughters, Isabelle, 39, Jessica, 37, and Haley, 35.
He's making every moment with them count. "Jeff's reminding them that our time here is so precious, and he's a very spiritual person who believes staying positive is all part of the healing process," adds the insider. "Plus, he and Susan have been through a lot, and they see this as another setback they'll get through together."
As the star undergoes treatment, he's been relying on alternative healing techniques, including sticking to a vegan diet. "Jeff respects Western medicine and doctors, but he's also been doing some chanting and spiritual stuff. He's into Zen philosophy and Buddhism, so this has been a time for reflection for him."
He's opening up to friends about his 60-year career as well as his relationship with his famous father, Airplane! star Lloyd, who passed away in 1998, and his rivalry with his older brother Beau, who's also an actor (the siblings starred in The Fabulous Baker Boys in 1989).
"Jeff's separating fact from fiction," says the insider, "and revealing more than ever before." Jeff's dad encouraged both Bridges boys to follow in his showbiz footsteps, but Jeff had other ideas. "Like most kids, I didn't want to do what my parents told me to do," he's said. "I wanted to play music or paint."
The insider tells OK! that Jeff's father and big brother's success cast a large shadow, and he "wanted to do something different so he wouldn't have to compete with them."
But when he landed a role opposite in the 1974 heist film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, he got bit by the acting bug. Says the insider: "He liked it so much he just ran with it." There was some tension between Jeff and Beau — who's won three Emmys and two Golden Globes — as they both became more and more successful, but they were able to overcome it. "Their brotherly bond kept them close and grounded," the insider reveals.
The actors were both keenly aware their dad had opened doors for them. "They knew they were the product of nepotism, so they couldn't get too big-headed!"
Jeff's enduring relationship with Susan began in 1974, when he spotted the young waitress on the set of the movie Rancho Deluxe in Montana. "We're having lunch, and I'm checking out this beautiful girl sitting across from me," he once recalled. "She was gorgeous. I found the courage to ask her out on a date, and she said 'No.'"
As luck would have it, Jeff ran into Susan again, and this time, she agreed. "They were married three years later," says the insider. "It was the best decision Jeff ever made because Susan's stuck by him through thick and thin."
They've hit a few rough patches over the years. During his career, Jeff has played the male lead against impossibly beautiful costars like Jessica Lange in King Kong, Michelle Pfeiffer in Baker Boys and Kim Basinger in The Door in the Floor. "But he never cheated on Susan, not once," says the insider.
"No matter how much womanizing you do as a single guy, you always think there's more to be done," Jeff has said. "But you don't want to get sexually involved with the other actor. My family was and is too precious to me. Sex," he added, "can lose you everything." His wife and kids have always been his priority, says the insider. "As crazy as his work load's been, Jeff's tried to be a good husband and model dad. He's raised strong daughters, allowing them to think for themselves and follow their own dreams."
Now, he's leaning on loved ones as he faces his biggest challenge yet. "Jeff's been tired after treatments, but he's keeping his strength up with vitamins and teas and medication," the insider explains. "He says he's not giving up and believes that following the advice of his medical team — along with the support of his family and fans — will ultimately help him kick cancer's butt!"