‘My love of the Nolans helped me spot my cancer and saved my life’ says Manchester mum

A mum has beaten cancer thanks to the two of the Nolan sisters who helped her find and fight the disease.
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Gail Jones, 56, has been a lifelong superfan of the all-girls group but never expected Bernie and Linda Nolan would help to save her life after she developed breast cancer.

The mum-of-four owns every The Nolans album and seen them perform live more than 100 times – and it was backstage at one of these concerts when she received lifesaving advice.

The late Bernie Nolan, who had then just been diagnosed with cancer herself, encouraged Gail to ‘always check your breasts’ at a concert a decade ago – which led to an early diagnosis after finding a lump during a check last year.

Gail Jones (L) and Linda Nolan (R) outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital Credit: Alex Cousins / SWNSGail Jones (L) and Linda Nolan (R) outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital Credit: Alex Cousins / SWNS
Gail Jones (L) and Linda Nolan (R) outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital Credit: Alex Cousins / SWNS

After reaching out to her hero Linda Nolan, who is facing her own battle with cancer, Gail was supported through every step in her terrifying journey and they became close friends.

After getting the all-clear last month, Gail says she owes her life to the Nolan sisters – because she’d never have spotted the lump without Bernie, and never had the strength to face treatment without Linda.

Carer Gail, who lives with wife Susan Jones, 57, in Manchester, said: “I couldn’t quite believe it when I was told the cancer was gone - because there were times where I didn’t think I’d make it at all.

“But even in the darkest of times, Linda was with me every step of the way and she has been a total strength for me because she’s going through it herself.

“I still remember so clearly when I saw Bernie backstage and she made me promise I’d always check for lumps.

“I kept the promise for a decade but ever expected to find anything - I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t found that lump when I did.

“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.”

Linda Nolan Credit: SWNSLinda Nolan Credit: SWNS
Linda Nolan Credit: SWNS

Linda Nolan added: “I love that Gail felt she could approach me when she was diagnosed.

“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.

“My main message is the same as Bernie’s was - always check your breasts!”

Life-saving advice

Gail told how she had been a huge fan of the Nolans since she first saw them live aged 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.

Colleen Nolan (R) with fan Gail Jones (L), circa 1985 Credit: SWNSColleen Nolan (R) with fan Gail Jones (L), circa 1985 Credit: SWNS
Colleen Nolan (R) with fan Gail Jones (L), circa 1985 Credit: SWNS

She recalled on one occasion meeting Bernie Nolan, who later died of cancer in 2013, and being given strict instructions which would later save Gail’s own life.

Gail, who has four children and eight grandchildren, said: “I remember Bernie told me ‘Please promise me you’ll always check your breasts, it can save your life.’

“When Bernie said that, I felt like I owed it to her.”

Gail heeded the advice and diligently checked for lumps every day for a decade - until she found a small cancerous lump in June 2020.

During a mastectomy on 0 July to remove what doctors suspected was early-stage cancer, a grade-three tumour was found.

A biopsy showed it had also spread to her lymph nodes - and she recalled the moment she began to think she’d never live to see her grandchildren grow up.

She said: “I was devastated - I was crying day and night.

“You never expect it to happen to you and my world fell apart.”

Finding a friend

Then Gail decided to reach out to Linda Nolan, who has been fighting her own cancer battle for over a decade, after the pair became good friends after meeting at one of the many concerts Gail attended.

Linda, 62, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and given the all-clear soon after, before learning in 2016 the cancer had returned to her hip.

In May 2020, she found out the disease had spread to her liver and become incurable - but that didn’t stop her stepping in to support long-time pal Gail just two months later.

Gail Jones with Linda Nolan at a previous meeting Credit: SWNSGail Jones with Linda Nolan at a previous meeting Credit: SWNS
Gail Jones with Linda Nolan at a previous meeting Credit: SWNS

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.

“But as soon as I did, supported me every day and helped me stay calm in a truly terrifying time.

“It’s was such a relief to speak to someone who understood what I’m going through - and I can’t believe that someone is the same person I’ve looked up to since I was 16.”

After undergoing more than a year of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, Gail was finally given the all-clear last month.

And now she can officially say the Nolan sisters - her all-time favourite girl group - saved her life.

‘I knew life was worth living’

Reflecting on her 18-month cancer battle, Gail said: “It’s been a very tough year and I had some points where I hit rock bottom.

“I thought I was going to die - at one point I even said to my wife I wanted to end it all.

“But Linda has been a strength for me - she texted me every night and reminded me that we’re in it together and I need to keep going.

“I remember at a dark point Linda telling me ‘Bernie wouldn’t want you to give up’ and it’s true.

“Linda and my wife were the two people who reminded me life is worth living and I will come out the other side of it, when I didn’t believe it myself.

Gail Jones and her wife Susan Credit: SWNSGail Jones and her wife Susan Credit: SWNS
Gail Jones and her wife Susan Credit: SWNS

Gail says she has no doubt she and Linda will remain “friends for life” and will forever be grateful for the advice Bernie gave her years back.

She said: “Bernie was the one who told me to check my breasts that night and I kept my promise to her.

“Then Linda was the one who helped me get through the scariest experience in my life even while fighting her own battle.

“Even now I’m cancer-free, I’ll still be there for Linda and give her the same support she always gave me.

“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.”

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