Nora Ephron Hid Cancer for Career, Son Says

Nora Ephron's son has shed light on his mother's last days with a terminal illness in a new essay this week.

Best known for the hit films "Sleepless in Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally," Ephron died at age 71 last summer, leaving thousands of fans shocked and in mourning. The author and screenwriter died from acute myeloid leukemia and pneumonia.

In a touching tribute entitled "Nora Ephron's Final Act," Jacob Bernstein revealed his mother's difficult decision to hide her illness for six years and why Ephron felt she had to do so.

Bernstein's piece, which will appear in Sunday's edition of The New York Times magazine, sheds light on the culture in Hollywood and on the disease that eventually claimed Ephron's life. Bernstein noted that his mother had considered "coming clean" with friends and colleagues about her health, but that it could have destroyed her career.

"She knew the effect it could have on her career," Bernstein wrote, according to The Wrap. "Certainly, she could continue writing books and essays. But getting a movie made would be impossible, because no insurance company would sign off on it. Arguably, she could do a play, but bringing it to Broadway would be difficult, given that the development process takes years."

Furthermore, Bernstein said Ephron did not want people's pity.

"Beyond that, what my mother didn't want was to have her illness define her, turning every conversation into a series of 'How are you?'s.'"

Ephron's resistance of pity even applied to her own son, and Bernstein described the moment his mother informed him that she was "having a little health crisis."

"I dropped everything, got into a cab and headed up to see her at New York-Presbyterian Hospital," continued Bernstein. "While I was en route, the phone rang; it was Max, who told me that Mom's MDS has turned into leukemia. I think I already knew, even though I hasn't asked her for specifics."

Bernstein also described his mother's final days in the hospital, including heartbreaking details that she had "cried a lot that first night, and then, the next day."

To read the entire essay "Nora Ephron's Final Act," click here.

Meanwhile, one of Ephron's final projects, "Lucky Guy," hits Broadway next month. The play stars Tom Hanks and follows the story of Pulitzer Prize-winner and columnist Mike McAlary.