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Linda Nolan has been surrounded by children all her life. She acquired two stepchildren when she married her late husband Brian Hudson in 1981. Her five sisters and two brothers provided her with a veritable army of nieces and nephews.   And when you factor in the children to whom she is a godmother, it all adds up to an extremely sizeable brood. However her one great regret in life is that she never had children of her own. Eleven years after Brian’s death she remains close to his children Lloyd and Sarah and adores the new generation of great nieces and nephews who are all still toddlers but can’t help thinking of what might have been. 

“It was completely down to my career and the idea that I had all the time in the world and then you realise you don’t,” says Linda, who found fame in the 1970s as a pop star with her sisters in The Nolans. Aside from her years of touring, Linda played the coveted part of Mrs Johnstone in the hit musical Blood Brothers for eight years and also worked the panto circuit “Instead of putting it off year after year if I had my time again I would have said to Brian, ‘Well, no time is perfect, let’s have a child.’ 

“I don’t dwell on it because it was just something that never happened but I love children and my counsellor said to me recently that the only spark she sees in my eyes is when I talk about my great nieces and nephews.”  It was this remark that prompted her to become a respite foster parent to children in care. And she found it was a role she loved, one that gave her a reason to count her blessings. But a year ago Linda was given the news that turned her world upside down. At the time life was looking rosy. She’d had a lower facelift, signed up to tour with the Madness musical Our House and enjoyed her first romantic kiss since Brian died in 2007. 

Then a seemingly innocuous fall on the stairs at home in Blackpool on March 2, 2017, changed everything. “I slipped up two steps, heard a crack and could not move so the ambulance came and three days later the doctors told me I had secondary cancer that had been eating through my hip,” recalls Linda. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and was given the all clear a year later following treatment.   Linda Nolan celebrated her 59th birthday last month with 30 loved ones in Blackpool . “I felt really sorry for myself initially because everything had taken an upturn and all of a sudden cancer had knocked me back down again. “When they told me that the cancer is treatable but not curable I remember saying to the nurse, ‘Yes, that’s what you said to my dead sister.’”  She is of course referring to Bernie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and died in July 2013 aged 52, just 11 months after she learned it had spread to her brain, bones, liver and lungs. Despite Linda’s fears, after spending four weeks in hospitals in Blackpool and Oswestry, Shropshire, she emerged with a walking stick and a steely resolve to squeeze every last drop out of life. 

She celebrated her 59th birthday last month with 30 loved ones in Blackpool, “eating, drinking and dancing on the tables”, while wearing new purple velvet Louboutin heels, a gift from a friend who knew that Linda – a self confessed shoe-aholic – had always wanted a pair.  She has had radiotherapy, takes calcium tablets and a cancer drug daily and has a CT scan every three months. The last one showed that the cancer is contained in her hip. “I try not to spend the time in between scans worrying that the cancer might have spread because otherwise it will take over my life,” she admits, adding that she has already chosen the music for her funeral: There You’ll Be by Faith Hill, the same song that was played at Brian’s funeral. “I have down days and I’m having counselling with a consultant clinical psychologist at my local hospital in Blackpool. “It is hard to deal with something like this. I said to my breast care nurse, ‘What do I do, do I live with this and wait for it to spread?’ 

“She said, ‘Well, you can live like that or you can believe that it’s contained, it’s not going to spread and live your life.’ The NHS has been amazing.” Like lots of people facing a terminal illness it has prompted Linda to reflect on her life. Linda's sister Bernie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and died in July 2013 aged 52

. She has distilled her story as well as her thoughts on seizing the day into a new autobiography From My Heart. It is a reminder that she is no stranger to sadness and ill health. Her tour manager husband Brian, with whom she spent 26 years, had been suffering from skin cancer when Linda first discovered she had breast cancer. Though it was widely reported that it was cancer that killed him alcoholism also contributed to the liver failure that caused his death, something Linda has only been able to admit recently.

“Brian was a functioning alcoholic but I couldn’t say that out loud for a long time. For me an alcoholic was someone you passed in the gutter, or falling over in the street. “Brian wasn’t like that. Maybe if I had told him, ‘It’s me or the drink’ I could have saved his life. “But I didn’t because I suppose I was scared that he would choose the drink.” She adds: “Having secondary cancer has brought my life into crystal clear focus. 

I still have worries like everyone else but I’m trying to get the most out of life.” But Linda, who also suffers with depression, admits there are what she calls “duvet days when I just lie on the couch”. “It is at night that it hits me most because Brian is not here. The first time I had cancer he would put his arms around me in the night and say, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ “I know that sometimes it is good to have a cry and wallow and then I get up the next morning and have a word with myself and get on with it.” She says her sisters have helped. “Maureen will come and ask me to go to the park or Denise will appear in the bedroom and say, ‘Are you not getting up today?’ Linda started reflecting on her life after she was diagnosed cancer

. “Coleen is funny. She told me the other day, ‘You may be sick but you’d better wash your hair, love, you don’t have to look a mess!’ “It’s ironic that there were points in my life when I wanted to die and thought it would be better for me, better for everyone. “But now I’ve got this diagnosis I have this fight inside me and I want to live and be around forever. I don’t want to climb mountains, I just want to be with the people I love.” 

Though she does not have a bucket list as such, Linda admits that this year she would like to “get some sunshine”, take her family to Lapland, go to New York at Christmas, get on stage again and fly first class having never done so. She remains determined to pack as much into her life as she can including falling in love again. Indeed, a year ago she enjoyed her “first kiss” since Brian’s death.    “It was with an old friend who had emigrated to Australia 40 years ago but wined, dined and kissed me on a fleeting visit back to the UK. “He was lovely but he has gone back to Australia now. I haven’t had a relationship with anybody since Brian died. “Now I feel ready but it would be more about companionship than sex, although obviously that would be great. “Having someone put their arm around me and say, ‘It’s OK’ would be nice and I’d love to go to the movies with somebody other than a girlfriend or my sisters. “Whatever happens I hope to be dancing on the tables in my Louboutins for a long time yet.” 

The Autobiography was released on the 8th March 2018  From My Heart

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