Frail and weak after completing three gruelling courses of chemotherapy for breast cancer, Anne Nolan was triumphant as she rang the bell at Blackpool Victoria Hospital to mark the end of her treatment.
‘Thank God, it’s over,’ she thought, as — two weeks ago — younger sister Linda proudly captured the moment on video as nurses clapped and cheered the eldest and longest serving member of the Nolans.
Her relief, however, was overshadowed by a deep sadness that the sisters weren’t celebrating by ringing that bell together.
‘Chemo was absolutely horrendous for me and I was so happy it finally was over, but at the same time I felt a terrible melancholy that Linda wasn’t ringing the bell with me,’ says Anne.
‘I started my chemo a week before Linda, so she still has one more round to go, but she said to me: “Anne, I will ring the bell, but we all know my cancer is never going away.”’
In her first in-depth interview since their shocking cancer diagnoses — within days of each other in April — Anne reveals the situation couldn’t be more heartbreaking for the devoted sisters.
Sisters Linda and Anne Nolan (pictured together after their hair loss due to cancer treatment) received news of their shock cancer diagnoses within days of each other
This Friday, Linda will ring the bell to mark the end of her chemotherapy, but her prognosis is tragically far bleaker than Anne’s.
For Anne, who successfully battled breast cancer 20 years ago, has been told by doctors the grade three tumour in her left breast is a new cancer and, therefore, curable.
Linda, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, has been told the secondary cancer found in her pelvis in 2017 has now spread to her liver and cannot be cured.
Anne is hoping for a full recovery after surgery at the end of this month, followed by radiotherapy and further drug therapy; Linda’s only hope of survival is to try and contain the cancer.
‘It’s desperately sad, but I can’t feel guilty because to feel guilt you have to have done something wrong, and although I’ve been told my prognosis is good, you can never tell with cancer,’ says Anne.
The sisters, who formed part of Irish pop group The Nolans, both underwent chemotherapy at Blackpool's Victoria Hospital but Linda's prognosis is tragically far bleaker than Anne’s
Seven years ago, their young sister Bernie tragically died from secondary breast cancer aged just 52, leaving behind distraught husband Steve and 15-year-old daughter Erin.
She passed away three years after a mastectomy. Anne says Bernie was so determined to beat cancer she fought it right to the bitter end.
‘My prognosis may be good, but Bernie was told hers was, too. None of us thought she would die.
‘Linda knows she can’t be cured, but her attitude is absolutely amazing. She doesn’t know if she has five years or 15, but she’s so positive and that’s why she’s going through chemo, to try and contain the cancer.’
Linda has spent the last few days in hospital being treated for what is believed to be non-Covid-related pneumonia, and Anne was distraught she couldn’t visit her because of Covid restrictions.
She is desperately hoping she’ll be allowed to cheer Linda on this Friday when she rings the bell to mark the end of chemotherapy.
For the past few months, Anne and Linda have cried together, gone through chemo side by side and lost their hair together. The recent image of them bravely posing bald together couldn’t have been more poignant.
When Anne suffered terribly from the side-effects of chemo, so severe she had to be hospitalised for 11 days, Linda insisted on sitting with her before her own sessions.
‘I don’t think I could have got through it without Linda,’ says Anne. ‘She refused to leave my side. I reacted so badly to the chemo and my anxiety levels were sky high.
‘We were in the middle of lockdown, weren’t allowed any other visitors, so we only had each other at a time when we were being warned that Covid could kill us.’
Anne underwent a mammogram yesterday, ahead of surgery, to find out how effective the chemo has been at shrinking the tumour.
‘At my last examination, the oncologist couldn’t find it and said if I’d come to him like this a few months ago he would have told me, “You don’t have breast cancer”,’ says Anne.
‘I don’t know if I will need a lumpectomy, as I did 20 years ago, or a mastectomy, but I’d be willing to have both breasts removed if it improved my chances of survival. I’ll follow the doctors’ advice.’
Linda has been told the cancer has now spread to her liver and cannot be cured. Anne is hoping for a full recovery after surgery at the end of this month. Pictured, the Nolans on the Les Dawson show
Anne says cancer has been so much more traumatic the second time around, with the loss of Bernie still so raw in their hearts.
‘I remember Linda breaking down in tears, crying to Bernie: “It should be me, not you. I have no children, I’m a widow, but you have a husband and daughter.’
‘And I told her: “No, Linda, don’t say that. If anyone, it should be me.” I’m the eldest, I’m divorced, my two daughters are grown up and I’ve had a fabulous life. The truth is, none of us can bear the thought of losing each other.’
Bernie was the powerhouse lead singer of the Nolans and the ‘life and soul’ of the family. Anne’s eyes shine with tears when she recalls how — just two weeks before their joint cancer diagnoses — the surviving Nolans sang their most iconic hit, I’m in the Mood for Dancing, in her memory — to mark its 40th anniversary.
The one-off performance on the cruise ship MSC Grandiosa was the first time Anne had sung with her sisters in public for 20 years.
‘Everything just fell back into place,’ she says. ‘We felt even closer than when we first performed the song 40 years ago.’
Afterwards, Anne, 69, Maureen, 66, Linda, 61, and Coleen, 55, who sang lead vocals, joyfully toasted each other with champagne, and tearfully paid tribute to Bernie.
‘What happened to Linda and I was all just so fast. That was the most traumatic part,’ says Anne.
sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more from dailymail.....