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Coleen Nolan: 'When Linda and Anne were diagnosed with cancer, I wanted to jump in the car to see them... but I couldn't'

ITV's The Real Full Monty on Ice is a big challenge for Coleen Nolan, but the message of the show is more important than ever, she tells Georgia Humphreys

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The line-up for the show - the aim of which is to raise awareness of cancers in intimate areas of the body - includes Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas, actress Linda Lusardi, Love Island star Chris Hughes and journalist Dame Jenni Murray.

The line-up for the show - the aim of which is to raise awareness of cancers in intimate areas of the body - includes Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas, actress Linda Lusardi, Love Island star Chris Hughes and journalist Dame Jenni Murray.

The line-up for the show - the aim of which is to raise awareness of cancers in intimate areas of the body - includes Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas, actress Linda Lusardi, Love Island star Chris Hughes and journalist Dame Jenni Murray.

Coleen Nolan laughed out loud when co-presenter Ashley Banjo told her his idea for their new series of The Real Full Monty. The pioneering TV show will see a group of brave celebrities, including Nolan and Banjo, yet again bare all in a daring dance routine, but this year, it will all take place on ice.

The line-up for the show - the aim of which is to raise awareness of cancers in intimate areas of the body - includes Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas, actress Linda Lusardi, Love Island star Chris Hughes and journalist Dame Jenni Murray.

Half of the celebrities had never skated before rehearsals started in September, by the way. Meanwhile, Blackpool-born Nolan (55), who starred in ITV reality show Dancing On Ice in 2009, quips it's "traumatic" having to don skates again.

"I think, if we pull it off, it will be spectacular," says the star, who found fame with her siblings as the hugely successful Irish girl group The Nolans.

"My initial worry was, 'It is going to lose the emotion that it has every year.' As long as we still make sure we still get the message across and that it still brings out the emotions that we want people to feel, then I'll give it a go."

The Covid-19 pandemic has made rehearsals and filming the show tougher, too; there's only one ice rink that's open, says Nolan, and it's five hours away from her house. And then there's all the testing before the celebs meet up, too.

"The easiest thing to do would have been to go, 'Do you know what, we will postpone it until next year', but we all feel that this year, it's more important than ever to get our message across.

"Everyone's so focused on Covid - we all are - that we all forget about all the other things and to check ourselves."

Nolan hopes The Real Full Monty on Ice reminds people how key early detection of cancer is in saving lives.

Following the previous series (it first aired in 2017), she has had "messages from people going, 'I checked myself while I was watching the show and found a lump.'"

"Luckily, the people who got in touch with me, one lady, it was nothing, it was a cyst. And another lady it was cancer, but because she caught it early, she was absolutely fine."

The bubbly, outgoing Loose Women host has a very personal reason to be raising awareness about this topic; her sister Bernie died from breast cancer in 2013 and two of her sisters are currently battling the disease. Linda (61) has been undergoing treatment for liver cancer, while Anne (69) has stage-three breast cancer.

How has Nolan been coping since their diagnoses?

"It has been a difficult year for every single person," says Nolan, who shares 19-year-old Ciara with her second husband Ray Fensome, who she divorced in 2018, and Shane Jr (31) and Jake with first husband Shane Richie.

"In some respects, that's what gets you through it, because you think, everybody is suffering in some way this year. Whether it be physically, financially, emotionally, we've all gone through it. So, you don't feel so alone."

She continues, candidly: "But it's really hard when you've had somebody this year diagnosed with anything this year, because, obviously, when Linda and Anne were first diagnosed, my initial thing was I wanted to jump in my car and go straight to Blackpool and see them.

"I think they got diagnosed in April and the first time I saw them was when we started a new series of the Nolan show we do for Quest Red, about five weeks ago. They were so ill during the treatment and we couldn't be there; both of them, at one point, had to go into hospital.

"Anne was in hospital for about 11 days and none of us could go and see her. It's just horrendous. But, for everyone going through that it's horrendous and I guess that's what gets you through it, that you're not alone."

Something Nolan discusses in the new Quest Red series is how her sisters' cancer has made her consider having a mastectomy.

We see the siblings talk about their options to a geneticist, who "put our minds at rest more".

"But, if it came back that we carried on a form of the gene and our best option would be to have a mastectomy, then I definitely would still," she adds.

One positive is that she and her kids are all very aware of cancer.

"My daughter checks herself all the time," elaborates Nolan.

"Sometimes, when you haven't been affected by something, you don't think about it - and I know it's not nice to think about, but that's why Full Monty is so important."

But as glad as she is to be part of such a moving show, she admits she's had many "sleepless nights" thinking about the live performance, which this year will be in front of a virtual audience.

When we chat in late November, it's two weeks before they are meant to film the eight-and-a-half-minute routine. So far, they've learned 30 seconds of it.

"Yesterday, I had a bit of a downer," confides Nolan.

"It was awful, because, normally, I'm so optimistic and I'm very much a glass-half-full person, but I was thinking, 'We're not going to be able to do this'. I fell yesterday and battered my coccyx, so I can't sit down properly."

The Real Full Monty can also be a terrifying prospect for those involved because of the fact that, well, they have to strip naked at the end of it.

But because the added icy element has meant "no one's even thought about that moment" yet this year, says Nolan.

"That will come, definitely, when we get costumes and then go 'Oh, my god, I've got to take this bra off.' And then, of course, you've got the worry of, 'I've got to take this bra off on ice!'"

The Real Full Monty on Ice, ITV, Monday and Tuesday, 9pm

Belfast Telegraph


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