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Nolan sisters open up about double cancer battle

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Linda and Anne Nolan

Linda and Anne Nolan

Linda and Anne Nolan

Two members of Irish sisters singing group the Nolans have revealed their shock at being diagnosed with cancer within days of each other.

Anne and Linda Nolan were handed the devastating diagnoses last year, just after completing filming on a cruise ship reality series at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the latest blow for the family who lost their sister Bernie in 2013, aged just 52, after a public battle with the disease.

Linda (62) has battled cancer for many years after first being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, the cancer returned in 2017 and is incurable. In March last year she was told it had spread to her liver.

Anne (70) was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time after beating the disease 20 years ago.

The sisters have now teamed up to write a book about their cancer experiences, 'Stronger Together'.

Best known for their 1979 hit I'm in the 'Mood for Dancing', the sisters toured Europe with Frank Sinatra in the mid 1970s at the height of their fame and became unlikely stars in Japan. In recent years they have continued to tour and have dabbled in acting and reality television.

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Pomp: Linda, Anne, Bernie, Coleen and Maureen Nolan in their heyday.

Pomp: Linda, Anne, Bernie, Coleen and Maureen Nolan in their heyday.

Pomp: Linda, Anne, Bernie, Coleen and Maureen Nolan in their heyday.

Anne and Linda shared details of their cancer battle on BBC Radio Ulster's Connor Phillips Show on Friday.

"We had just come off a fantastic cruise and were full of the joys of spring. When we returned we had to isolate and I found a lump on my breast, I went to the doctor the next day and I could tell from the reaction it was going to be cancer," Anne recalled.

Linda said just 30 minutes after receiving a phonecall from sister Maureen to inform her of Anne's diagnosis she was contacted by her oncologist to come for an MRI scan.

"I was so devastated, it's a blow, but you process it" Linda said.

"My brother had just said to me two days before 'we've just got over you having cancer and now Anne has cancer'. Maureen moved in to look after Anne and our sister Denise and her partner asked me to come and live with them. When they dropped us off at the hospital they both cried, they said it was like leaving a four-year-old at the school gates, they felt so helpless."

Anne said the sisters supported each other through their treatment after Linda arranged for them to have chemotherapy together.

"I think Covid actually helped in that way, it sounds bizarre, but most of the people in the oncology unit were social distancing but we were able to sit together and it was a great comfort for both of us," she said.

The book came about after their agent pitched the idea of the sisters sharing their cancer experiences.

"We wanted it to be warts and all, nobody's life is a bed of roses all the time. It was difficult, but it was also cathartic," Linda said.

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Bernie Nolan

Bernie Nolan

Bernie Nolan

They also recalled Bernie's battle with the disease.

"We think of Bernie everyday, I remember standing in the corridor with Maureen at the hospice and I said 'what are we going to do', we didn't know, we couldn't imagine life without Bernie," Linda said.

Anne recalled the family coming together at her bedside.

"The day before she died we were all around her bed. Her husband kept telling her 'we're all here Bernie, you're not on your own' and he asked us to sing. We sang 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' in July. We always used to sing in five part harmony and we sang it while she was lying there dying. It was comforting really, to do that was amazing," she said.

The sisters urged anyone with cancer symptoms to get themselves checked out as soon as possible.

"The thing with cancer is it doesn't go away, if you've got a lump or any signs go and have it seen to. Don't be frightened of going to the doctor, it's the best thing you can do," Anne said.


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