More than a year after Paul Newman‘s death, his longtime best friend has broken his silence to reveal the inside story of the actor’s brave battle against cancer – and the regrets Paul took to his grave.

In Paul and Me: 53 Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal, Paul Newman, writer A.E. Hotchner confirms Newman’s rapid decline in the fall of 2008 was accelerated by leukemia. This story was first exclusively reported by The ENQUIRER. 

Hotchner says he found out about Newman’s cancer when the two friends met for lunch at Paul’s Westport, Conn., restaurant in September of 2007. Surprisingly, beer lover Paul did not order one of his beloved Coors.

"He told Hotchner his liver couldn’t handle beer anymore and he’d have to settle for iced tea," said a publishing insider familiar with the book’s contents.

"Hotchner witnessed the beginning of the decline of Paul’s health when he started to withdraw from commitments at age 80, announcing he was giving up acting because he could no longer remember lines.

"This day eating in Westport, Paul looked gaunt and pale. For 18 years, the two had produced a fundraising gala for their Hole in the Wall Gang camps for kids with cancer.

"Paul indicated this would be his last gala and that Hotchner needed to handle the production himself.

"Getting off the barstool with great difficulty and holding his back as he walked stiffly to his car, Newman attributed a searing back pain to sciatica.

"After celebrating his 83rd birthday in January 2008, Paul spiraled downward in the months that followed – and he had trouble breathing."

The beloved actor and philanthropist underwent lung surgery. Several months later, he was diagnosed with leukemia, cancer of the bone marrow and blood.

"Hotchner knew Newman was dying," said the publishing source.  "By spring, after gaining a pound or two, the actor talked about competing in a car race and playing badminton.

"It was false hope. By the end of summer, his cancer was surging and required ambulance runs between Westport and a New York hospital."

When the author visited Paul for the last time at his home the first week of September, Newman had stopped chemo and all other treatment. Instead he was saying goodbye to friends.

Paul told his old buddy: "I’m running out of gas. It’s been a hell of a ride."

The actor died with two big regrets, according to Hotchner.

Paul was never able to get close to his substance-abusing, estranged son Scott, who died in 1978 from an accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol following injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.

"And Paul’s own father died before he became a successful actor. He believed Paul was a failure."