Linda Nolan learned of cancer diagnosis half an hour after sister Anne

‘It’s a double nightmare’: Linda Nolan reveals she learned of her devastating cancer diagnosis just half an hour after sister Anne in moving GMB interview… after her sibling was too ill to appear

  • In her first TV interview since publicly revealing her diagnosis, Linda, 61, described her health battle as ‘a double nightmare’
  • The Loose Women star appeared on the show solo as her sister Anne, 69, was too unwell
  • Both Linda and Anne have vowed to beat the disease that killed their sister Bernie, 52, in 2013
  • Linda added that when she first shaved her head she was ‘traumatised’ to see her reflection as it reminded her of her late sister Bernie 
  • On Monday the siblings shared brave photos just days after their cancer battle was revealed, showcasing their shaved heads after undergoing chemotherapy treatment 
  • Linda was previously diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, cellulitis and lymphoedema in her arm in 2007 and secondary cancer on her pelvis in 2017

Linda Nolan has revealed she was diagnosed with cancer just half an hour after her sister Anne learned she was battling the disease.

In her first TV interview since publicly revealing her diagnosis, the singer, 61, admitted it’s been ‘traumatic’ losing her hair after undergoing chemotherapy treatment in lockdown, and described the health battle as ‘a double nightmare’ to undergo during lockdown.

On Sunday, Linda and Anne, 69, stunned the nation when they revealed they had been diagnosed with cancer just days apart and seven years after losing their sister Bernie to cancer in 2013. and posed for brave photos after losing their hair during treatment.

Sad news: Linda Nolan, 61, has revealed she was diagnosed with cancer just half an hour after her sister Anne learned she was battling the disease

Linda said: ‘Since I was re-diagnosed in 2017 I’ve had regular three monthly scans and I go in and see the oncologist and he says ‘[yeah everything’s fine treatment’s working” and you carry on with it. 

‘Then we went on the cruise and had a brilliant time, on ‘the Nolan’s go cruising’. And we went on that and then when we got back Anne discovered a lump in her breast and she went to the doctor. 

‘I had my normal scans, I think it was the fourth of May. On the 7th of May Maureen phoned me to say that Anne’s cancer had been confirmed and had to possibly have chemo or a lumpectomy and then half an hour later my oncologist secretary phoned to say that they had seen something on my liver and I had to have an MRI scan.

Difficult: On Sunday Linda and Anne revealed they had been diagnosed with cancer just days apart, posing for brave photos after losing their hair during treatment

Scary: Linda said on Tuesday’s Good Morning Britain she’s been diagnosed for the third time after originally being told she had incurable cancer in 2017

‘So I didn’t tell anyone for around three days because I can’t turn round and go ”yeah I’ve got it back as well you know”. So its my third time.’

Asked about her own health, she told Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway: ‘I feel OK actually, my chemo isn’t as toxic as Anne’s, it’s actually secondary breast cancer that I have got, the cells have just metastasised. 

‘But Anne is a primary cancer so she is having the full everything thrown at her to make her well again. She’s sorry she couldn’t be here but sends her love.’

She added: ‘We are both getting great treatment from our local hospital Victoria and everybody there is brilliant, all the staff and nurses there are fabulous. 

‘You’ve heard of the chemical brothers, we are now the chemical sisters. Or you know somebody said we could do a right said Fred impression.’

Close: Linda and Anne, who formed part of Irish pop group The Nolans, began chemotherapy at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital last month (pictured in the 1970s)

Linda admitted it’s been challenging undergoing cancer treatment during the COVID-19 lockdown, as they’ve been unable to embrace their grandchildren or visit loved ones.

During the pandemic, many of those undergoing cancer treatment have been advised to stay at home and ‘shield,’ with these rules only changing on Saturday.

She added: ‘During the lockdown its been a double nightmare because normally our family – my husband used to call us the cavalry – when something happens bad or good they rush from all directions and we laugh and we chat and we support each other but of course all we were initially able to do with Anne was to phone her and say we’re here or wave at her through the window. 

‘That has made it more difficult and I think Anne has struggled with that because she has two daughters and grandchildren and not being able to have their support as in hugging and they’re all mad about their gran. 

‘But we do at chemo have a good old chin-wag we compare side effects, pins and needles in our fingers and toes, we swap all that information.’ 

Alone: Linda – who described being diagnosed in lockdown as ‘a double nightmare’ – was solo on the programme, as sister Anne was too unwell to appear

Linda said that despite the grim diagnosis she and Anne are doing all they can to stay positive during treatment, but confessed they have had moments where they fear for the future.

She added: ‘They (the doctors) want positivity all the time, they say it helps you as much as they are doing, being positive helps. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve both had our moments, we are both scared to death, we want to live. 

‘It is a very scary diagnosis and I’ve known my cancer is incurable since 2017 but I’m getting great treatment and I’m going to be living with cancer.’

Linda added: ‘We’ve actually had the genetic testing, we don’t have the BRCA gene at all, 1 or 2. We have been told there will be a rogue gene in there somewhere that they haven’t discovered yet. 

‘It’s scary for our other sisters and of course the girls that are married that have daughters, well sons as well. It is very scary in that respect. It’s really difficult. I don’t think we could have done it without our family being so close.’

Upsetting: The devastating news comes seven years after Linda and Anne lost their sister Bernie (pictured second from right in 2012) to cancer in 2013

Moving: Linda admitted she struggled to come to terms with her reflection after shaving her head, as she looked too similar to her late sister Bernie

Linda also candidly admitted that she struggled to come to terms with her reflection when she first shaved her head during treatment, saying: ‘We miss Bernie every single day. I don’t think we’ll ever get over it. The first time I looked in the mirror when I had my head shaved, I saw Bernie looking back at me. 

‘I cried, I saw her looking back as a sick person really, which saddened me again. People have always said we look alike. I’ve seen pictures of Bernie with no hair, we’re like twins at the moment. Wherever she is, she’ll be saying, ”Get on with it, girl”.’

‘I managed to keep my hair a little bit last time. I was traumatised by it. I think a lot of people… I feel vain saying that the worst thing at the moment is I have no hair, but it has been traumatising for me. It’s been a massive shock. You feel a bit weird saying, ”I’ve got cancer… but I’ve no hair”.’

On Monday both sisters Linda and Anne shared brave photos just days after revealing they are battling cancer together, having begun chemotherapy at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital last month. 

They received news of their shock diagnoses within days of each other, shortly after the sisters returned from filming a series of The Nolans Go Cruising in March.  

A tweet from the Nolan’s account confirmed the devastating news on Sunday. 

Tweeting news of their diagnoses from the Nolan’s official account, Linda and Anne said: ‘For the past few months during lockdown, Linda and Anne have been battling cancer and chemotherapy together.  We will get through this together, as a family.’ 

Loose Women presenter Coleen also took to Twitter after the news broke, penning: ‘They’ve beaten it before – they can beat it again. Please keep them in your thoughts and well wishes.’  

Family: Linda and Anne endured a round of chemotherapy together at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital last month after receiving the devastating diagnoses (pictured L-R Denise, Linda, Anne, Coleen, Bernadette and Maureen)

Speaking of the moment they were diagnosed, Linda told the Sun: ‘We laughed and we cried really, It’s hysterical. Forget the Chemical Brothers, we’ve become the Chemo Sisters,’ she added.        

Mother-of-two Anne said: ‘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.’   

Anne found out she has stage three breast cancer in April, 20 years after she was first diagnosed with the disease in 2000, and Linda discovered she has incurable liver cancer days later. 

The pop star has also battled cancer before. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, cellulitis and lymphoedema in her arm in 2007 and secondary cancer on her pelvis in 2017. 

Surprising; Despite fears she may have the feared BRCA gene, Linda admitted she has been tested, and instead fears it could be a ‘rogue gene’ that has sparked her numerous battles with the disease

What is the BRCA gene and how does it affect people’s risk of cancer?

Having a mutated BRCA gene – as famously carried by Angelina Jolie – dramatically increases the chance a woman will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, from 12 per cent to 90 per cent. 

Between one in 800 and one in 1,000 women carry a BRCA gene mutation, which increases the chances of breast and ovarian cancer. 

Both BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce proteins to suppress tumours. When these are mutated, DNA damage can be caused and cells are more likely to become cancerous.  

The mutations are usually inherited and increase the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer significantly.    

When a child has a parent who carries a mutation in one of these genes they have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutations.  

About 1.3 per cent of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer, this increase to 44 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation. 

Linda said she thought her scans ‘would be just fine as they normally are’, before her oncologist’s office phoned her to say she needed an MRI scan as they had found something on her liver. 

‘I couldn’t tell anyone then because they were so obviously devastated about Anne,’ she said. ‘I thought, ”I can’t turn around now and say, ”Actually I’ve got it back as well”.’

The devastating news comes seven years after Linda and Anne lost their sister Bernie to cancer in 2013. 

The second youngest Nolan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. She underwent chemotherapy and a mastectomy and announced in February 2012 that she was cancer-free.

However, months later Bernie shared the heartbreaking news that her cancer had spread to her brain, lungs, liver and bones. She died in July 2013, aged 52.     

Linda said: ‘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.’     

After the sisters received their heartbreaking diagnoses, Maureen moved in with Anne and Linda relocated to her sister Denise’s home.

The sisters had their first session of chemotherapy together on June 5, and will both have six rounds of the treatment in total. 

Anne, who was in hospital for 11 days amid her treatment, will then have either a mastectomy or lumpectomy, most likely followed by radiotherapy.  

In April, Loose Women host Coleen told how Linda’s cancer treatment had been delayed amid the coronavirus crisis. 

The Loose Women host appeared on This Morning as she discussed how the global pandemic left her older sister waiting to receive treatment.

Linda receives regular hospital treatment to ‘strengthen her bones and keep the cancer at bay’, she said.

Coleen added: ‘It is worrying. I know one of her injections was delayed for a couple of weeks which meant she was in a lot of pain with her bones. 

‘You don’t want her to miss what she should be having. On the other hand, is it putting her more at risk to put her in a hospital where she’s going to bump into other people?’

Linda was first diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2006, and though she went into remission, the cancer returned in 2017, and was confirmed to be incurable.  

United: The Nolan sisters have banded together in the wake of Linda and Anne’s diagnosis, as Maureen has  moved in with Anne and Linda relocated to her sister Denise’s home (pictured together with sister Coleen in 2009)

‘We started chemo on the same day’: Seven years after Bernie died of breast cancer, Nolan sisters Linda and Anne face the same struggle… so why do faulty genes plague some families but not others?  

By Alison Boshoff for The Daily Mail

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.

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.’

Challenges: In April, Loose Women host Coleen told how Linda’s cancer treatment had been delayed amid the coronavirus crisis. admitting she also feared her sister visiting a hospital during the pandemic (pictured together in 1980) 

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 breasts 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.’

‘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.

Sad: Linda and Anne learned of their cancer diagnoses after returning from filming for the Quest Red series The Nolans Go Cruising (pictured with their sister Maureen in August 2019)

Some years ago, Bernie and Linda were tested to see if they have mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which are strongly linked to breast and ovarian cancer — but they did not.

Instead, they have been told that a ‘rogue’ gene was responsible.

This gene, called CHEK2, usually repairs damage in the breast. However, a study published in The Lancet in 2002 suggested that a mutation in CHEK2 may account for some familial breast cancer susceptibility not caused by BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations (see panel, right).

Anne says: ‘It’s horrible when it is breast cancer in a family of women. I have daughters and granddaughters, so it is a very real worry. They will take medical advice now.

‘I have talked to my daughters about it and it is a big decision to take to have your breasts removed. And one of the possibilities of genetic testing is that you have your breasts removed and then you get cancer somewhere else.’

She says having had cancer before, she always feared its return. ‘I think that only people who have had cancer can probably realise what a grip the experience has on you.

‘Every time anything is wrong with me, or is different, anything, no matter how small, I think: ‘That’s it, the cancer is back.’

Anne adds: ‘I’ve also started having anxiety attacks. That’s got something to do with the pandemic. They say that when you’re having chemotherapy, you can pick up any kind of infection — 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.

‘I think part of it is because I’ve not been able to see my daughters and grandchildren. I’ve not touched them, I’ve not been able to hug them or kiss them.’

The tragic death of Bernie, who died three years after her diagnosis, leaving a daughter and husband, has been troubling both women.

Linda — who, like Anne, has lost her hair due to chemotherapy — says: ‘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.’

Anne says: ‘People talk about fighting cancer, but I think that is wrong, because it implies that people who have died didn’t fight it.

‘Well, Bernie fought and fought and fought until her last breath.

‘We will never know the answers about why this has happened. Some people have a belief that there is fate, or a reason, or that things are meant to be.

‘I think that must be a comfort when bad things happen.

‘My own belief is that you can’t sit around thinking: ‘Why me?’ or ‘Why us?’

‘The question is: ‘Why not me? Why shouldn’t it happen to us?’

By Thea Jourdan for the Daily Mail

The Nolans’ story highlights the frightening way breast cancer can run in families.

If your sister has breast cancer, you have a nearly 6.5 times higher-than-average risk of developing the disease between the ages of 20 and 40, and double the average risk after the age of 50, according to a major trial published in 2008.

Most ‘family’ cases of breast cancer are linked to inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes — they account for around 2,250 (5 per cent) of the 55,000 new diagnoses in the UK each year.

‘For women who have a faulty BRCA1 gene, the lifetime risk is a 60 per cent to 90 per cent chance of developing the disease,’ says Louise Grimsdell, clinical nurse specialist at the charity Breast Cancer Now.

Without this mutation, the lifetime risk is just over 14 per cent.

But in the case of the Nolan sisters, it is a different faulty gene that is involved. As Anne reveals in these pages (see main story), Linda has a mutation of CHEK2, a tumour suppressor gene, just as Bernie did.

‘Most women with familial breast cancer do have faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, but a small proportion of women have other genetic mutations that we now know can also raise the risk,’ says Charles Coombes, a professor of medical oncology at Imperial College London.

It is thought that around 4 per cent of genetic breast cancer cases are linked to a faulty CHEK2 gene.

The lifetime risk of a woman with a CHEK2 mutation developing breast cancer is up to 37 per cent, and they have a 50 per cent risk of passing the defective gene on to their daughters and sons.

Men with a CHEK2 mutation may be at increased risk for breast and prostate cancers.

In recent years, women have been screened for other known mutations, too, usually if they have a strong family history of breast cancer but test negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2.

What isn’t clear is what proportion of cases are linked to as-yet-unidentified ‘family’ genes, although the vast majority of breast cancer cases are not inherited.

So far, scientists have found that mutations of the PALB2, CHEK2 and ATM genes all increase the risk of breast cancer, as well as BRCA1 and BRCA2, ‘but there could well be more,’ says Professor Coombes.

Any mutation can pass on through families.

CHEK2 mutations can lead to a higher risk of breast cancer, but also colorectal cancer and possibly others.

Meanwhile, a review of the ATM gene, published in the journal Current Oncology in 2018, found that around 1 per cent to 2 per cent of adults in the U.S. had one mutation of this gene, which aids tissue repair, and women who carried this mutation had a 25 per cent greater risk of developing breast cancer.

PALB2 mutations are also linked to increased risk of breast cancer.

‘These genes are another part of the tissue repair machinery and can go awry,’ says Professor Coombes. He hopes more women will be able to be tested for a wider range of mutations in the UK, not least because this could assist with treatment options.

‘There is no gene therapy yet for breast cancer, but we do know certain drugs are more active in patients who have BRCA gene mutations,’ he says.

But inherited genes are only part of the picture. And it’s not certain that women with these genes will develop breast cancer, says Jayant Vaidya, a professor of surgery and oncology at University College London.

‘Even with the faulty BRCA genes, between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of women do not develop the disease; and women with CHEK2 mutations have a lower risk than that, somewhere below 50 per cent,’ he says.

Indeed, increasing age and being female are the two biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer, and there are lifestyle factors that can make a difference, too.

Professor Vaidya adds: ‘Hopefully in the future we will be able to combine multiple factors, including lifestyle and environmental, and determine a woman’s actual risk.’

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