Linda and Anne Nolan open up about their devastating cancer diagnoses

Lockdown was a tough time for everyone but, for the Nolan family, it was utterly heartbreaking.

Shortly after filming their hit TV series, The Nolans Go Cruising, Anne and Linda’s worlds came crashing down when they were diagnosed with cancer within days of each other – seven years after their beloved sister Bernie died from the disease. Both sisters have battled cancer before. For Anne, 69, this breast cancer news came 20 years after she was first diagnosed with it.

Linda’s incurable liver cancer has spread from a secondary cancer on her pelvis, which was diagnosed in 2017. She also battled breast cancer in 2006 and cellulitis and lymphoedema in her arm in 2007. ‘I thought my scans would be just fine, as they normally are,’ she admitted.

But while this is, of course, a scary time for the whole family, Linda, 61, and Anne are relying on their positive mindsets and famous Nolan humour to get them through…

A double blow

Anne was diagnosed first, as Linda recalled to The Sun: ‘On 7 May, 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. I thought, “I can’t turn around now and say, actually I’ve got it back as well.”’

Anne, whose breast cancer is stage three, added, ‘My first cancer was diagnosed in April 2000, so it was exactly 20 years on.’

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Recalling the moment they broke the devastating news to their siblings, Linda said, ‘We laughed and we cried. It’s hysterical. Forget the Chemical Brothers, we’ve become the Chemo Sisters.’

The pandemic means they haven’t even been able to hug. Linda explained, ‘Now we’re frightened because our immune systems are low, so if we got something infectious or, God forbid, COVID-19, then it would be a real battle to stay alive.’

The added worry of the virus has affected Anne’s mental well-being, too. ‘I’ve had anxiety attacks,’ she admitted. ‘They say when you’re having chemotherapy, you can pick up any kind of infection and it can be fatal. So I think that’s been playing on my mind as well. This has broken me down a bit, to be honest. And I think part of it is because I’ve not been able to see my daughters or my grandchildren.

‘I’ve not touched them, I’ve not been able to hug or kiss them,’ she added. ‘And I think that’s what makes me more sad than anything.’

Loss of identity

Understandably, the sisters’ biggest fear is not surviving the deadly disease. Anne admitted, ‘I don’t want to die. I love my life so much. I want to live for as long as I possibly can. I am scared of dying. Even though I believe in God, I’m still scared.’ While Linda added, ‘I’m scared of dying. I don’t want to die. I want to be around to see my great-nieces and nephews grow up, and that’s why I’m putting everything I’ve got into trying to get well.’

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For Linda, losing her hair has been tough to deal with, too – mainly because of the resemblance she sees between herself and their late sister Bernie, who died of breast cancer in 2013.

‘How you look is part of showbiz and everybody gets labelled. I was the blonde with the big boobs, so cancer has taken that away from me,’ she said.

‘First I had a mastectomy in 2006, and now my hair, and it’s just really hard. It’s such a massive part of my identity.

‘I look in the mirror now and I see Bernie, because I think we’re so alike anyway, and it just brings back all of her trauma and how sick she was.’

Our thoughts are with you all, ladies.

Robyn Morris
Entertainment writer - contributor

Robyn is a freelance celebrity journalist with ten years experience in the industry. While studying for a degree in Media and Cultural Studies at London College of Communication, she did internships at Now and Heat magazines. After graduating, she landed a job at Star magazine, where she worked her way up to features editor. She then worked at Future as Deputy Celebrity Content Director across Woman, Woman’s Own, Woman’s Weekly and Woman & Home magazines.