'We started chemo on the same day': Nolan sisters Linda and Anne face the same ...

Diagnosed with breast cancer exactly 20 years after her last bout of it, Anne Nolan is both devastated and scared. 

Her sister Bernie — famous, like Anne, for singing in The Nolans, and later appearing in The Bill — died in 2013 aged only 52 after her breast cancer spread.

Another sister, 61-year-old Linda, is now undergoing chemotherapy at the same time as Anne. 

After being successfully treated for breast cancer in 2006, Linda has liver cancer.

Diagnosed with breast cancer exactly 20 years after her last bout of it, Anne Nolan is both devastated and scared. Another sister, 61-year-old Linda, is now undergoing chemotherapy at the same time as Anne

Once famous as members of the joyful and wholesome singing group, a darker fame is stalking the Nolan clan.

Anne, now 69, has been having chemotherapy after a lump — which she found in April — turned out to be malignant. She faces surgery and possibly radiotherapy, too, as her cancer was detected at stage three.

She says: 'I'm not brave. I haven't been brave at all — I've been crying and probably stressing my sisters and my daughters.

'I just haven't got any choice. Either I do it, take chemo, or face the consequences.'

It's the news she has long dreaded and she has been having panic attacks and receiving therapy for anxiety.

She told me: 'You fear that just one single cell is out there, somewhere, wherever in your body, and that it has escaped the treatment and will turn into a cancer that will kill you, even though you may have been in remission for years,' she says.

Anne has had problems with lumps in her for almost her whole adult life. 'The first time was when I was maybe 25 and I had a benign lump out with 12 stitches,' she says.

'It was only when the doctor said that the lump had been tested and was benign that I realised that it could have been cancerous.

'After that, I would have lumps aspirated with a needle [to take a biopsy] probably once or twice a year. I did say to the doctor: 'Must I really keep on doing this?' and she told me: 'Yes, because the one time you ignore a lump, then it will be cancer.'

In 2000, that prediction came true. 'They had taken out two cysts — which were benign — and the doctor examined me and she found the cancer, which I had missed' recalls Anne.

'I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I did get quite ill, which was my own fault because I was doing a summer season in Blackpool at the time and I got a bit tired. I ended up in hospital for a week on antibiotics.'

Anne recalls that it was hard telling her daughters, Amy and Alex, who were then aged 19 and 13.

'Apparently I told one of them when we were walking in the park and the other when she was in the bath,' she recalls.

'I think I broke it pretty abruptly. They knew I was having tests and they asked me how it had gone and I just said: 'I have cancer.'

The Nolans: Back row l-r, Linda, Coleen and Maureen. Front row, Bernie and Anne

The Nolans: Back row l-r, Linda, Coleen and Maureen. Front row, Bernie and Anne

'One of my daughters burst out laughing when I told her because she thought I was joking, and I had to say, 'No, I'm serious', and in that instant she was crying.'

She continues: 'I do remember that I had moments of pure despair with the cancer. I remember we would go out for a meal and everyone would be really happy sitting around the table, and then I would think, 'I have cancer', and it would be like a black cloud coming over you. I would just feel so scared.

'You feel really alone, even if there are lots of people with you who want to help.'

She adds: 'I was watching Comic Relief and there was someone on the show who had lost three children. I don't think that there can be a greater pain. There is always someone worse off than you and it doesn't hurt to remind yourself of it.

'We have been through a bit. But there are families who have been through even more. You must not think about people who have been through nothing because then you aren't able to cope.

'People say, 'You are being brave', but you don't have a choice.'

Her new diagnosis came after she and Linda returned from filming the TV series The Nolans Go Cruising, along with sisters Maureen and Coleen.

As Linda told the Sun newspaper recently: 'On May 7, our sister Maureen called me at 10am to say that Anne's breast cancer had been confirmed.

'Then, half an hour later, my oncologist's secretary phoned me to say: 'We need you to have an MRI scan because we've seen something on your liver.'

'I couldn't tell anyone then because they were so obviously devastated about Anne.'

Anne and Linda started chemotherapy at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Blackpool on the same day, June 5. Linda joked: 'Forget the Chemical Brothers, we've become the Chemo Sisters.'

Maureen has moved in with Anne, who is divorced, to look after her, and Linda has gone to stay with their other sister, Denise. Anne remains hopeful of a full cure after a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

The mother of two (Amy is now 39, and Alex, 32) and grandmother of three (to Amy's son Ryder, eight, and Alex's children Vinny, ten, and Nevaeh, five) says: 'I don't want to die. I love my life so much.

'I love my daughters, my grandchildren, my friends, all my family. I want to live for as long as I possibly can.

'I am scared of dying, as well. Even though I believe in God, I'm still scared.'

Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and secondary cancer on her pelvis in 2017. She now has incurable liver cancer.

Linda hopes that the disease responds well to treatment and has been told she may live for another 15 or 20 years if it does.

She says: 'I'll be 75 in 15 years time, and I would've had a great life. So that's why I'm again, for the third time, going to give it everything I've got.'

The sisters are pulling together now, but there was a nuclear falling-out after four of the sisters — Coleen, Maureen, Linda and Bernie — took part in a 30th anniversary comeback tour, which excluded Anne and Denise.

Anne furiously accused the siblings of 'stabbing her in the back', and said that they were 'dead' to her.

However, within a year she had written to them all to make up, for the sake of the extended family, and she was reconciled with Bernie, Maureen and Denise long before Bernie became ill.

She made up with Coleen just before Bernie died. The night before she passed away, all five sisters sang her favourite song, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, to her.

Today, they are bonded as never before. Now mature women with children and grandchildren, Anne will not hear any suggestion of rifts or rivalries in the Nolans.

She says: 'We are all very close, all very supportive. All of us. It is fantastic.

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