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Linda Nolan was ‘suicidal’ after losing husband to cancer after her diagnosis

From singing together in The Nolans – touring the world and selling 30 million records – to fighting cancer side by side, sisters Linda and Anne Nolan have a special bond like no other.

The siblings, who’ve been battling cancer for more than 20 years, have supported each other through countless hospital visits and numerous treatments. Anne, 70, has fought two separate bouts of breast cancer since 2001, while Linda, 62, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, which recurred in 2017 when it spread to her hip, and last year spread to her liver.

When the pair join us to celebrate the release of their new book, Stronger Together: How We’re Living While Fighting, it’s evidently a heart-wrenching time for Anne, who was told last year she was clear of the disease. She’s now dealing with the heartache of seeing her beloved younger sister get an incurable prognosis, while knowing that she, thankfully, is healthy once more.

“I wish Linda had the same results I had,” says Anne. “Finding out I’m cancer-free has definitely been bittersweet.”

In 2013, Linda and Anne’s sister Bernie died at 52 following a three-year battle with the illness.

This was a devastating blow for them and sisters Denise, 68, Maureen, 66, and Coleen, 56, who have spoken publicly about the huge impact losing Bernie had on them.

She lost her husband Brian in 2007

She went on to admit that she doesn’t want to “go back down” that path again.

“I always think if he was here, he’d sort it. When I had cancer in 2006, I’d wake up in the night feeling rubbish and he’d rub my back, giving me what I needed,” she said.

“I miss him every day. I had depression when I lost him and I still suffer now, but it’s under control.”

Six years earlier, Linda had lost her husband of 26 years, Brian Hudson, also to cancer. It was at the time when Linda became a widow and

Anne finalised her divorce (she has two daughters, Amy, 40, and Alex, 33, with her ex-husband Brian Wilson), that the singers both contemplated taking their own lives.

“I’d written goodbye letters to my sisters,” reveals Linda, as Anne adds, “I just didn’t want to live any more.”

Here, the sisters open up on overcoming their lowest moments, dealing with different diagnoses and their crippling fear of death…

Hi ladies. Anne, it must have been bittersweet when you found out you are cancer-free while Linda is still so poorly…

Linda Nolan
Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer a year before his death

Linda Nolan was 'suicidal' after losing husband to cancer after her diagnosis

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Anne: It was. Normally I’d have been over the moon, but it was so hard to say I was clear of cancer at the time because Linda hadn’t had her results back. But Linda was great. She didn’t make me feel bad. It was definitely bittersweet. I wish she’d had the same results I had, but like her oncologist told her, she could live for another 15 years.

Linda: My oncologist told me we’re in for

a marathon, not a sprint. I was honestly delighted for Anne. I’ve never felt jealous of her. My cancer spread and it’s nobody’s fault.

How did it feel to get the all clear, Anne?

Anne: Amazing. I had my first mammogram, then an operation, then more scans where the oncologist said, “If you came to me today I’d say you haven’t got cancer.”

And the scans came back all clear.

Linda Nolan
She keeps her husband’s ashes in her bedroom

Linda: It was brilliant news for us. Every time one of us went to get our scan results, all our family would be on edge, fearing bad news. So when Anne told us, we were thrilled.

Anne: I haven’t been given the actual “all clear” because the cancer could return.

I have to take a drug every three weeks to prevent it coming back in the breast. I’m also on a drug that’s given to bone cancer patients. I’ll have that every six months for three years to prevent cancer coming back to my bones. But for now, I’m clear.

Does it worry you that the cancer might come back?

Anne: All the time. Whenever I get pain anywhere, I worry, but it’s a natural reaction. When I got it 20 years ago, for a few years afterwards I’d panic every time I got ill. But you learn to live with it.

Linda: You can’t live every day thinking, “Has it come back?” Because otherwise the cancer has won.

Linda, where has your cancer spread to?

Linda: I have secondary breast cancer. It was in my breast in 2006 and then it metastasized [when cancer cells break away and form new tumours in other parts of the body]. In 2017 it went to

my hip and last May it moved to my liver. Some of the tumours in my liver have got slightly bigger, which is why I’m on chemo tablets now.

I take four in the morning and four

at night. I have a CT scan coming up and after that I’ll get the results from my oncologist. Every time, I worry if it’s spread again. I’m scared of dying. There’s so much

to live for. You

realise that when you’ve been through all that I have. Every day is a gift.

Anne, is it hard knowing that Linda has those fears?

Anne: It is hard. I’m the same – I have anxiety about dying. I’m seeing a psychologist about it.

Linda, you must be missing your late husband Brian’s support…

Linda: Yeah. I always think if he was here, he’d sort it. When I had cancer in 2006, I’d wake up in the night feeling rubbish and he’d rub my back, giving me what I needed. I miss him every day. I had depression when I lost him and

I still suffer now, but it’s under control.

I don’t want to go back down that slippery slope again.

Anne: It was sort of similar for me because when I had my first cancer, my husband Brian was there. He’d really look after me, helping me when I was throwing up and taking me to all the appointments. Then last year he wasn’t there because we’re divorced, but I still missed him because it was the first time I had cancer with nobody there to hug me. And because of the pandemicI couldn’t even get my daughters round to take his place.

How bad was your depression when you lost Brian, Linda?

Linda: I was suicidal. I was assisted by a mental health crisis team. A psychiatrist came to see me, with these two big burly men who were nurses. Later, I realised

if it hadn’t gone well, they’d have carted me off. My local mental health team were amazing. They told me I had nothing to lose and to give them a chance because they felt they could help me.

Were you diagnosed with a mental health illness?

Linda: I was diagnosed with acute depression, which developed into a normal depression that they could treat with medication. They said, “Nobody can stop you doing what you’re going

to do.” I’d written goodbye letters to the girls, saying, “Dear all of you, I know you will understand.” At the time,

I genuinely believed they would understand. But once I told them about it, they said they definitely wouldn’t have.

Have you been in dark places yourself, Anne?

Anne: When my husband left me, I wasn’t as bad as Linda but I wanted my life to end. It wasn’t my choice for Brian to divorce me and I remember I went out in the car once at 4am, it was lashing with rain and I turned off my windscreen wipers because I just didn’t want to live any more. But I only had them off for about 10 seconds, then I turned them on again.

Linda: [To Anne] Was this while you were driving?

Anne: While I was driving, yeah.

I never did anything like that again.

I knew I was going to be OK.

Linda: You know yourself, and when you’re feeling better. I’ve read the letter I wrote and thought, “What a load of tosh!” [Laughs] People always say suicide is so selfish, but at the time you think you’re doing the most selfless thing because you won’t be a burden any more.

You think you’ll be

in a better place.

Did you confide in each other when you were feeling low?

Anne: At the time I didn’t. My sisters knew I was bad because I was acting like a bunny boiler. My ex had moved in with someone else and I used to park outside and stare at their house for two hours. I was a lunatic.

Linda: When I was really bad, Anne and I weren’t in a good place, we weren’t speaking. But Maureen and Coleen were there. In the end I took them with me to see the psychiatrist to help them understand. Maureen found it really helpful, but Coleen said she still didn’t get it and she wanted to kick me up the bum. Which is fine – I understand

that was her way of dealing with it. But when I was awake at 3am, I’d call Maureen instead of Coleen.

What were the days like when you were feeling so down?

Linda: I booked three holidays, paid for them all, but didn’t go on any of them because at the time I only felt safe here where my support was. It was a really hard time. Dragging yourself out of bed at 3pm, lying on the sofa until 3am, forgetting to eat. Sometimes I’d realise in the evening I’d not even had a drink. But I’m glad to say I’m out of that. I take antidepressants, which really work. They’re not a miracle cure, but they make it easier for me to talk about Brian without crying every time his name is mentioned.

How do you cope with depression now, Linda?

Linda: I had two days on my own at home not long ago. Our friend had passed away from Covid. It really stumped me. So I texted our sisters WhatsApp group and they got me over for dinner. I know the signs.

I know not to sit and wallow. You

have to help yourself sometimes.

Would you say cancer is the hardest thing you’ve been through?

Linda: I would say losing Brian

was harder.

Anne: I think the difference is, when my husband left me I didn’t want

to live. But when I had cancer

I wanted to live.

Linda: Yeah, I told my counsellor it was ironic that in 2009 I’d wanted to die and now I’m so desperate to live! It’s a totally different feeling.

Anne, how did you get yourself out of that dark place?

Anne: I have two daughters. One of them was still at school at the time so I’d drop her off then go back home to bed. But it was the hardest time of my life. It was hard for me to reconcile with Brian and his now wife. For a long time I didn’t, which was really difficult for my daughters because they weren’t allowed to talk about

him in front of me. But eventually

I knew I had to stop, because he was a fantastic husband throughout our marriage. So I started talking to him and being nice to his wife. I feel good about that because I did it for my girls. That really got me through, having to do it for them.

You’ve written your book together

– how much input did the family have in that?

Anne: Not a lot. Our sisters and brothers have always been supportive of us but when it comes to the book, they haven’t had cancer so in a way they can’t relate. It was mainly just

me and Linda working on it.

How have your fans reacted to news of the book’s release?

Linda: They’re so excited! It’s an emotional but uplifting read.

Anne: Our fans truly are amazing. They’ll buy our book before anyone else does. ■

Linda & Anne Nolan: Stronger Together is out now (Ebury Press, £16.99)

IF YOU are struggling to cope and NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO, CALL SAMARITANS FREE ON 116 123

FOR BREAST CANCER ADVICE AND SUPPORT, visit macmillan. org.uk or call the helpline on 0808 808 00 00


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