AS if the suicide of her half-sister Nancy Motes isn’t staggering enough, Oscar-nominated superstar JULIA ROBERTS has been struggling with yet another crushing family tragedy.
The ENQUIRER has learned that the “Pretty Woman” beauty’s beloved mother Betty Lou Motes, 79, had been secretly battling deadly lung cancer!
Doctors discovered a cancerous tumor while Betty was being treated for chronic back problems in November, said a close family insider, and the heartbroken actress stepped in to care for her.
“Julia has been absolutely beside herself,” said the insider.
“She’d already been secretly dealing with her mother’s illness when Nancy took her life.
“Now, the two things have hit her like a one-two punch!”
Doctors accidentally found Betty’s cancer last year when she had problems with a disc implant, said the source.
“The implant shifted after Betty had back surgery, and the doctors did an MRI to locate it,” said the source.
“During the MRI, they discovered a spot on her lung. Everyone was frantic because Betty has a history of smoking and emphysema.”
Doctors were forced to delay cancer surgery until Betty – who underwent an emergency angioplasty after suffering a heart attack in 2009 – recovered from the back surgery, said the source.
Following her mother’s cancer diagnosis, a distraught Julia – who’d bought her mother a home near Pacific Palisades, Calif. – moved Betty into her Malibu home, said the source.
“Julia was taking care of her mom and cooking all the meals,” said the source.
“As a result, Julia wasn’t doing her usual running and yoga, and she packed on a little more than 10 pounds.”
In photographs snapped late last year, Julia looked overweight, sparking whispers that the 46-year-old mother of three might be pregnant.
In addition, a friend of Nancy’s claimed in a published report that Julia cut off contact between Nancy and their mother, changing their mother’s cell phone number and the locks on her house.
“Betty had taken care of Nancy her whole life, and Nancy was suddenly left out in the cold.”
At that point, Nancy owed $30,000 for gastric bypass surgery she’d undergone after a long-time battle with her weight. She’d also lost her job as a production assistant on the TV series “Glee.”
Nancy fell into a depression and eventually turned on Julia, said the source.
“She was very despondent. That was around the time that she started going off on Julia on her Twitter page.”
In December, Nancy tweeted, apparently about Julia: “Hey Hag! Glad you f****** with me yet? You’re going to LOVE what’s coming! FYI -You’re an awful, hate filled old pathetic excuse for a human.”
Then, on Jan. 20, she posted a note that said, “So my ‘sister’ said that with all her friends & fans she doesn’t need any more love. Just so you all know ‘America’s Sweetheart’ is a B****!!’ ”
She was apparently referring to Julia’s role in the 2001 romantic comedy “America’s Sweethearts.”
In a later posting, Nancy wrote: “Do you want to be a fan of someone so cruel? She’s not even that good of an actress. Happy you totally F***** with me?”
On Jan. 22, Nancy tweeted: “(M) y own family has abandoned me.”
Just a couple weeks later, on the morning of Feb. 9, Nancy’s fiance John Dilbeck dropped her off at the $2.9 million rented home of a doctor on North Bundy Drive in Los Angeles.
The surgeon had reportedly hired Nancy to look after his cat and two golden retrievers while he attended the 12th Annual Cardiovascular Disease Prevention International Symposium in Miami Beach, Fla.
“Nancy had been having seizures and could no longer drive,” explained the source.
“John was supposed to return around noon to pick her up. He started texting Nancy, and when he didn’t hear from her right away, John figured that she’d just gone for an extended walk.”
Dilbeck – who was set to marry Nancy on May 17 – finally went to the doctor’s home around 2 p.m. He found Nancy’s lifeless body in the bathtub. She’d reportedly consumed a high dose of prescription medications, including Valium and nonprescription pills.
According to the source, John told pals he called Julia’s sister Lisa and vented his anger at the sisters.
“Lisa was thunderstruck and, when Julia found out, she became hysterical.”
Nancy left a lengthy suicide note, said the source. The source said much of the note was directed to Nancy’s fiance John, which the L.A. Coroner gave him.
“He did not get the other pages,” said the source.
Under California law the coroner is obliged to give suicide notes only to the person to whom they are addressed.
According to the source, the remainder of the note is directed to other members of the family.
Although the letter has not been released, according to the source and to other public reports, Nancy slams Julia in the letter.
Shortly before Nancy’s suicide, doctors operated on Betty and removed a small portion of her lung, said the source.
Doctors notified Julia and Betty that they believed they’d removed all the cancer. Betty is now back in her own home with a full-time nurse and caretaker, and she’ll soon begin radiation therapy, said the source.
Tragically, “Nancy believed her mom was dying and she’d never see her again,” the source said.
Instead, Nancy took her own life.
Nancy’s funeral will be held in the spring in her native Georgia, according to the source.
Since Nancy’s death, a shaken Julia has remained largely silent about the tragedy.
The source says Julia’s privately “suffered an emotional collapse” under the strain of the two tragedies.
“She was already reeling from her mom’s cancer crisis,” said the source. “Now, she’s been deeply hurt and stung by all the criticism after Nancy’s death and feels she doesn’t deserve it.”
The star – a Best Supporting Actress nominee for “August: Osage County” – canceled engagements at the Academy Awards’ Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills on Feb. 10 as well as a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” appearance later that day.
She also bowed out of the Paris premiere of her film on Feb. 13.
“Julia insists that Nancy’s death was not a suicide,” said the source. “She wants to believe that the overdose was accidental, that somehow Nancy expected to be discovered before she passed away. Julia’s been crying her eyes out ever since.”