'The Nolans saved my life': How Bernie's warning to superfan proved critical 10 years later

·5-min read
Gail Jones (left) with Linda Nolan backstage after a concert (SWNS)
Gail Jones (left) with Linda Nolan backstage after a concert (SWNS)

A superfan of The Nolans, who has seen the sister group perform more than 100 times, credits them with helping her fight breast cancer.

Gail Jones, 55, says she “owes her life” to two of the Nolan sisters.

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.

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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.

Gail, a 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 journey.

Gail Jones was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2020 (SWNS)

They've compared treatments and supported each other through their chemotherapy.

Gail believes 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.

Gail has attended over 100 live performances of The Nolans (SWNS)

“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 added that it’s important to have contact with someone who is going through the same things as you.

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Nolan continued: "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, who lives with wife Susan Jones, 56, in Manchester, has been a Nolan 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.

Linda Nolan (right) who also has cancer, has been supporting Gail (SWNS)

Gail developed a particularly special bond with lead singer Bernie Nolan, who died of cancer in 2013 after fighting the disease for three years.

In June this year 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.

Watch: How to check your breasts for lumps

“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 spread to her liver.

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.

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“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."

Linda Nolan was also diagnosed with cancer earlier this year (SWNS)

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. 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.

“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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