Although his rep has denied it, a longtime friend of Paul Newman‘s says the actor does have cancer.

Writer A.E. Hotchner, a neighbor of Paul’s and his Newman’s Own business partner, tells the Associated Press that the Oscar winner shared the news with him about 18 months ago.

”I know that it’s a form of cancer,” he tells the AP. ”It’s a form of cancer and he’s dealing with it.”

He declined to specify what type, but early reports claim Paul, a lifelong smoker, is battling lung cancer. A.E. fuels the flame more by revealing that the 83-year-old underwent an operation a few years ago.

”It was certainly somewhere in the area of the lung," he says.

As for Paul’s status now, A.E. says, "Everybody is hopeful. That’s all we know. He’s doing all the right stuff. Paul is a fighter. He seems to be going through a good period right now."

Concern over the star’s health peaked in the last month after he dropped out of his Westport, Conn. hometown’s production of Our Town, which he was to direct, citing illness, and appeared gaunt at recent events, including the Indy500.

On Tuesday, Paul’s rep said the cancer reports are "not true," but also cryptically said he was "doing nicely."

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