Jeff Bridges is fighting a tough battle against his lymphoma, but the iconic actor is “feeling the love” from his family, a friend exclusively tells Closer Weekly. In fact, Jeff feels fortunate to have his longtime wife, Susan Geston, and their three daughters, Isabelle Bridges, Jessica Bridges and Haley Bridges, by his side.

“Jeff is truly grateful for his family, friends and the fans who have rallied around him,” the insider shares with Closer in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “It’s really lifted his spirits.”

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Just before the start of the new year, Jeff shared some news with his fans. He recommended the music of a friend he’s known since fourth grade. He made a pitch for donations to No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit. Jeff also gave an update on his battle with lymphoma. “Here’s the latest,” the Oscar winner wrote. “Feeling good, shaved my head, got a puppy — Monty. Had a birthday — 71, man!”

Along with the message, the Big Lebowski star posted a photo of himself with Monty at his home in Santa Barbara, California, where he has been receiving treatment for the cancer he first went public with in October 2020. “He knows this is a serious disease, but he’s not ready to throw in the towel,” the friend notes. “He’s living each day with a new appreciation.”

Born into a Hollywood family — his late parents, Dorothy and Lloyd Bridges, were both actors — Jeff literally grew up in the spotlight. He made his first appearance on his father’s television series Sea Hunt when he was 8. “My dad was like, ‘Come to work with Dad!’ and I’d get out of school,” the True Grit alum recalled to Closer. “My dad was my first teacher.”

A love for acting, however, didn’t come as naturally to Jeff as it did to his older brother, Beau Bridges, 79. “I didn’t want to be an actor, probably because my father wanted me to be an actor so much — and what kid wants to do what their parents want?” Jeff asked. “I was into music and painting. I had 12 films under my belt or so before I really decided this was what I wanted to do.”

But it turns out the Crazy Heart star is pretty good at acting. He earned his first Oscar nomination in 1971 for The Last Picture Show, in which he played the first in a long line of charming, yet unpredictable, rascals. “One of the things I learned from my father was to mix up my persona,” said Jeff. “I think I’ve strived to pleasantly confuse the audience and not let them know who I really am.”

Though he may have had doubts about his career, Jeff knew for certain that he’d found the love of his life at 26 when he met Susan while filming Rancho Deluxe in Montana. The actor has never regretted marrying young. “I had this vision of an old guy thinking, ‘There was this girl from Montana — man, why didn’t I marry her?’” he recalled.

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Jeff’s health crisis has been the biggest challenge in their 43-year marriage. “Jeff never expected this diagnosis,” explains the friend. “He went in for a checkup because he’d been feeling tired and fatigued and his glands felt swollen. When he was told the news, he was surprised.”

And despite the Hell or High Water actor’s weariness from his chemo treatments, “His prognosis is good,” says the friend. “It’s working, though it leaves him tired. He’s been taking a lot of naps with his new pup, Monty.”

It’s become part of Jeff’s nature not to surrender to negative thinking. “I try not to get into the whole scare thing,” the Hollywood hunk told Closer. “You get hooked on fear and I find it kind of paralyzing. I’d rather act out of love.”

To keep this positive frame of mind, the actor meditates and plays music. “Jeff has done transcendental meditation for quite a few years now and he finds it really centers him,” explains a second pal. “He also practices breathing exercises. It’s been great for him, along with his music. Jeff finds strumming his guitar can take him away from the world and give him a sense of spiritual wellbeing.

The power of faith, love and a positive attitude are lessons Jeff learned from his parents, Lloyd and Dorothy, when he was a boy. “My parents were married for a very long time,” the actor told Closer. “They, like every one of us, had terrible problems and challenges, but that joy was always there: ‘We’re alive, here we are, let’s make the best of this. This is wonderful, let’s go out and love each other.’ That goes well for your work and your private life and all that stuff.”

He understands that he still has a long road ahead, but Jeff’s optimistic that, with the support of his loved ones, he will win this battle. In fact, he’s already making plans for the future. “He would like to do some surfing in Hawaii when he is feeling up to it,” confides the first friend. “He’s been surfing since he was a kid growing up in Southern California. He’d like to do some again.”