A mum with breast cancer has told how she owes her life to two of the Nolan sisters – who helped her find and fight the disease.
Gail Jones, 55, is a lifelong super fan of the all-sister group and has seen them perform more than 100 times and owns every album.
Ten years ago Bernie Nolan had just been diagnosed with cancer, and made Gail promise she’d check herself regularly, when they caught up backstage after a gig.
She has diligently checked her breasts for lumps every week since – and found a lump in June this year, thanks to Bernie’s decade old advice.
The mum-of-four was diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time as her hero and friend Linda Nolan, who is facing her own battle with cancer.
The pals have become close friends since Gail started attending her concerts as a teenager, and Linda has supported Gail through every step of her scary journey.
They’ve compared treatments and supported each other through their chemotherapy treatments.
Gail said she owes her life to the sisters – and said she’d never have spotted the lump without Bernie, or had the strength to face chemo without Linda.
Carer Gail originally from West Bromwich, West Midlands, said: “I still remember so clearly when I saw Bernie backstage and she made me promise I’d always check for lumps.
“I’ve kept that promise for 10 years – but I never expected to find anything.
“When I found my lump in June and the doctors told me it was cancerous, I felt like my world was falling apart – but Linda has helped me through it.
“Even though she’s facing incurable cancer herself, she’s helped me through every step of my treatment and reminds me that it’s ok to be scared.
“From Bernie’s advice all those years ago, to all the support I’m receiving from Linda now – the Nolan sisters have truly saved my life.”
Linda Nolan commented: “I love that Gail felt she could approach me. It’s so important to have contact with someone else who’s going through the same thing as you.
“I had no idea how far our friendship went back until I got the message from Gail – it’s lovely to catch up with old friends and build on that friendship.
“I’m very touched by what Gail has said about us, but I always remind her, ‘you’re the one going through this – you need to remember how strong you are as an individual.’
“My main message is the same as Bernie’s was – always check your breasts!”
Gail, a community carer who now lives with wife Susan Jones, 56, in Manchester, has been a Nolan super-fan since first seeing them live at the age of 16.
Over the years, she has spent thousands on show tickets – and developed a close relationship with the Nolan family after meeting them backstage countless times.
Gail developed a particularly special bond with lead singer Bernie Nolan, who died of cancer in 2013 after fighting the disease for three years.
She recalled how Bernie advised Gail to check her breasts for lumps, shortly after her own diagnosis in 2010.
Gail, who has four children and eight grandchildren, said: “I remember Bernie’s exact words to me – she said ‘Please promise me you’ll always check your breasts, it can save your life.’
“When Bernie said that to me, I felt like I owed it to her.”
In June this year – seven years since Bernie died – Gail noticed a ‘pea-sized’ lump while doing her weekly breast check.
A mammogram and a biopsy at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, revealed she had what doctors thought was early-stage cancer in her right breast.
She had a mastectomy on July 20, but during the surgery doctors discovered Gail also had a large, grade 3 tumour which hadn’t been picked up by scans.
A biopsy showed it had spread to her lymph nodes.
She said: “When I received the diagnosis, I was devastated – I was crying day and night.
“You never expect it to happen to you and my world fell apart.
“I thought I would die – I kept thinking about how I’d never see my grandchildren grow up.”
That was when she reached out to her long-time friend Linda Nolan.
The pair have been genuine friends for decades, and Linda was diagnosed with incurable cancer in June.
She fought breast cancer in 2006 and secondary breast cancer on her pelvis in 2017, which has now has spread to her liver in an incurable form.
Gail said: “I wasn’t sure whether to message Linda because she has her own cancer battle, but as soon as I did, I knew I’d made the right decision.
“Since I first told her, she’s supported me every day and explained all the processes so I knew what to expect, which has really helped me to stay calm in a truly terrifying time.
“It’s been such a relief to speak to someone who understands what I’m going through – and to tell me that it’s ok to feel upset and scared sometimes.
“I can’t believe that someone who has been an inspiration to me since I was 16 has also now supported me through this journey.”
Brave Gail had her lymph nodes removed in early September at The Spire Hospital Manchester.
Now three weeks into her chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, medics believe her surgery has removed all the cancer.
But as she continues her treatments, she said she “could never have done it without Linda”.
She said: “Because of Linda’s support, I’m so much stronger than I ever thought I’d be.
“She’s said to me in the past ‘you’re not dying with cancer, you’re living with it, so don’t let it beat you’ and that really stuck in my mind.
“She’s truly amazing that despite having incurable cancer herself, she’s still supported me through everything.
“Bernie saved my life when she told me to check my breasts for cancer – and now Linda has saved my life by helping me through it.”