A year after losing her beloved husband Paul Newman to lung cancer, Joanne Woodward faced a terrifying cancer scare of her own, say sources.
The 79-year-old actress, who is still deeply depressed over Paul’s death, recently underwent a biopsy to rule out lung cancer after a medical test came back with an "abnormal result," according to a longtime family friend.
"A growth was detected and there were fears that she was going to be diagnosed with lung cancer – just like Paul had been," revealed the friend. The ordeal was extraordinarily stressful for Joanne, a heavy smoker until about age 60, said the friend.
"She lives with Paul’s passing every hour of every single day, and this scare brought back the vivid nightmares of when he was diagnosed and the long battle he had to endure before he died."
Fortunately, the growth proved to be benign, but the scare pushed the already frail widow to "one of her lowest points possible," said the friend.
"Joanne was facing the possibility that she would be struck down by the same disease as Paul."
Paul died in September 2008 at age 83 after a two-year battle with cancer. Throughout his ordeal, his faithful wife Joanne remained by his side. Their 50-year marriage was regarded as a rare example of lasting love in Hollywood.
"She was there for Paul all through his cancer battle, and she held on to the hope that he was there for her – in spirit – as she came to grips with whether she was dying," said the friend.
After Paul’s death, the actress appeared to have deteriorated physically and rumors swirled around Westport, Conn., that she was seriously ill – particularly after she stepped down as co-artistic director of the Westport Country Playhouse a few months ago. And her appearance at a benefit in Norwalk, Conn., on Oct. 24 worried everyone further.
"She was pale, and her hair was whiter and thinner," said an insider at the event.
While Joanne is "out of the woods" regarding lung cancer, the thought she might be "joining Paul in eternity wasn’t lost on her," said the friend.
An employee at the Dressing Room – a Westport restaurant Paul opened a few years ago – told The ENQUIRER that Joanne still comes in to eat occasionally and sits at her and Paul’s favorite table by the window, "table 21."
The employee added: "Paul’s spirit is here – and she knows that."