Lynda Bellingham on Loose Women: her final interview

It was with great sadness that, earlier this week, we learned of Lynda Bellingham’s death. A fine actress and truly inspirational woman, she touched the hearts of many when she spoke of her decision to stop chemotherapy last month. So moved was Lynda by the nation’s response, she recorded one last, emotional interview with her fellow Loose Women presenters.

Ruth Langsford: Hello. Welcome back. It’s good to have you with us today on Loose Women. As you all know, our friend and fellow Loose Woman Lynda Bellingham sadly passed away in her husband’s arms on Sunday.

It was just two weeks ago, actually, she was right here in this very studio talking to Janet and Coleen about her diagnosis, how she was coping, her plans for the future… Obviously, when we did that interview we didn’t know that, sadly, it would be her last ever one.

So here is the first part of what was to end up as the last time that we spoke to her.

Coleen Nolen: Now, when our next guest recently revealed she has terminal cancer, we received over 40,000 messages of support within 24 hours, proving that she is truly the most popular Loose Woman of all time.

Please welcome the beautiful and fabulous Lynda Bellingham.

Lynda Bellingham: Aw. Hi, guys.


Lynda Bellingham: Enough! Enough. All right.

We’ve got so much to chat about. We haven’t got time for all this business.

Coleen Nolan: And you do like to chat.

Lynda Bellingham: I do love a bit of a chat, yes.

Janet Street-Porter: I thought of you this morning because I was late for work and Coleen said, “Good job Lynda is not here.”

Lynda Bellingham: Yes.

Janet Street-Porter: Bellers would have had your guts for garters.

Lynda Bellingham: I would.

Coleen Nolan: Well, that’s one of the things I always remember about you was the morning meeting. She was always first for the meeting, and God help you if you turned up two minutes late.

Janet Street-Porter: She’d give me that look of death.

Coleen Nolan: Yeah.

Lynda Bellingham: Yes. If you didn’t have a note.

Coleen Nolan: Yes, yes.

Lynda Bellingham: Come on then, girls. Honestly, what do you want to know?

Janet Street-Porter: I was so proud of the title of your book.

Lynda Bellingham: Yes!

Janet Street-Porter: How long did it take you to come up with that?

Lynda Bellingham: Seriously, I walked in to – and thanks to Hodder for considering even letting me write the book… And can I just say quickly, this book is for everybody. This is not about me.

We might have had this conversation, Janet. I wanted to do a series of documentaries ages ago about death, because people don’t talk about it, people aren’t ready for it and it’s not a very nice thing to talk about. But I wanted to make it funny. But I couldn’t think of a title to sell it to the network. Do you know what I mean?

Janet Street-Porter: Yeah.

Lynda Bellingham: I couldn’t think of anything funny at the time. Then I thought… When I was diagnosed I had to write down all my medicines. Whew, my medicines! I’d open a shop.

I thought, “Well, now is the time to do it. I’ll write a record and then put it all in one and then maybe I could, you know, sell that as an idea.”

But something I’m dying to tell you… Actually, as I walked into the room at Hodder to discuss it, it just…

Coleen Nolan: Came to you.

Lynda Bellingham: … kind of pinged into my brain, and I just thought, “Well, yes.”

As I say, it’s for everybody. If one person who feels on their own… You do feel alone and it is very hard to take on board, obviously. It has taken us a year to absorb it. But once you do, instead of worrying about dying you must enjoy the bits in between.

Janet Street-Porter: I think what shines through from your book is the positivity, and hearing that you’ve got a terminal illness, instead of feeling sorry for yourself you start organizing everyone. You start communicating with them all and I think that’s the thing that shines through.

Lynda Bellingham: Well, I’m really lucky. Can I just say now that the response from the girls… It just meant so much to me. I can’t tell you.

As the producer of A Passionate Woman said to me, “Well, at least you get to hear them.” It could have been awful, of course, couldn’t it?

Coleen Nolan: Yeah.

Lynda Bellingham: “What time is she off?” you know.

But that has given me… I can’t tell you how much it has helped, really. Thank you to everybody, really.

Coleen Nolan: And, of course, the reaction from the Loose Women fans as we said, over 40,000 within 24 hours.

Janet Street-Porter: Millions and millions of people sharing it on Facebook.

Lynda Bellingham: Millions and billions of people knowing about Furby.

Coleen Nolan: Oh, I love Furby.

I got your book yesterday and I started reading at two o’clock. I finished at half past seven last night when I texted you. You’re right. There’s so much positive in there, but also, obviously, the sadness. So you go from laughing to crying. It was so beautifully written.

Lynda Bellingham: Thank you.

Coleen Nolan: The title, for me, Something I Have Been Dying To Tell You… Because you did keep it private for so long. We all kind of heard.

Lynda Bellingham: Yes.

Janet Street-Porter: But that’s all we heard.

Lynda Bellingham: When it came out it had to come out because of the play. I was going to do A Passionate Woman. One of the things that upset me last year was that I got no credit as a serious actress. I wanted to go grey for the play because she would be grey and she wasn’t trendy or anything. She’s about to lose her son. He’s going to get married.

And I hate wigs. I don’t care how good they are. Wherever you are, you’re conscious of your wig. So I carefully went this colour, slowly, slowly over the summer. Had I known, actually, it was gonna be such a nice colour, I would have done it ten years ago.

They forgot all about that. They said I had gone white because of the cancer, which I hadn’t. These are the little things that upset you.

But the funny thing about the stoma thing was I was doing really well at the beginning. And I have to say that Professor Justin Stebbings… The life thing is two to five years. Actually, it’s nearly two years. It will be. So they have sort of done what they set out to do, and it was going really well.

Sorry, my nose runs. It’s not my cocaine habit.


I always forget the tissues. I’m still not quite…

Coleen Nolan: Would you like a tissue?

Janet Street-Porter: She’s got a tissue!

Lynda Bellingham: Have you got a tissue?

Coleen Nolan: Yes.

Lynda Bellingham: Just a small one. Just to dab delicately.

Coleen Nolan: Yeah. Try and be a lady during this interview.

Lynda Bellingham: As opposed to on my sleeve.

Yeah. What was I saying?

Coleen Nolan: I don’t know. I always kind of shut off, even when you’re on Loose Women.

Janet Street-Porter: By the way, Coleen, she always had to have the last word.

Coleen Nolan: She did.

Lynda Bellingham: Just slides them underneath you.

Janet Street-Porter: Every time we went to a commercial break, Bellers would get the last word in.

Lynda Bellingham: No, she would [points to Coleen Nolan].

No, no. Suddenly I had this perforated colon and suddenly I’m into hospital mode and operations. That was another chapter I wanted to write, because if you have never been in hospital, God forbid, it’s such a shock.

Janet Street-Porter: Yes.

Lynda Bellingham: Again, you have to hand yourself over and sort of do what they tell you.

Janet Street-Porter: Well it must have been hard for you.

Lynda Bellingham: Very hard.

Janet Street-Porter: You’re used to being in charge.

Lynda Bellingham: Well, I am, and I woke up with this strawberry on my stomach. What is this? This has nothing to do with… Michael, bless him. Most men would go, “Ah!” He was amazing and peered at it, a bit fearful at first, weren’t you darling?

Then I suddenly thought, “Oh, now we’re in taboo territory and we must get this out. People must not be embarrassed.”

It’s the second biggest killer you know, and actually, unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the minute you’re diagnosed it’s too late. I knew I was stage four 15 months ago, so it was quite hard when people said, “Oh, your chemo will be finished soon. Don’t worry.”

Janet Street-Porter: Lynda, what would you say to people watching about bowel cancer? What would you say? How would you say to people what to watch out for?

Lynda Bellingham: Well, the trouble is it’s an age thing. We don’t do age, do we? But it’s breathlessness and indigestion, which are the two things. When I was doing pantomime at Bradford that’s exactly what happened.

We went to the doctor, and because we’re self-employed and you have to look after yourself, I have always had stool tests. I have always gone and been checked up and everything. But unfortunately, this one hides.

I would say get checked up, but the biggest thing, Janet… if you put a pound away for a colonoscopy when you get to 60, they actually do say that’s probably the only way of knowing for sure that you have got bowel cancer.

Lots of people have cysts. So they snip those off as they’re going up having a little look around, which is fantastic. That is the only way. I would say, don’t rush to the internet. Mine came back clear anyway.

Janet Street-Porter: Yes, yes.

Coleen Nolan: The internet, of course, will scare you to death anyway.

Lynda Bellingham: Well exactly, you be gone wouldn’t you, if you looked at one of those?

Coleen Nolan: Yeah. Absolutely.

Lynda Bellingham: So that’s the biggest thing.

Then, as I say, having got through the operation, and in order to have the operation because of the chemo… The chemo stops you healing, so that’s why, well, they delayed it initially. They could have taken it out then. But if I’d had eight weeks operation time without the chemo I’d be dead.

But they give you all these things to think about.

So I came out of the operation. Scar, marvellous. It’s gone, brilliant. Then I remembered, “Oh, right. I’ve got cancer. I’ve got to deal with that now.”

So I went back into cancer mode, and unfortunately that’s when it all kind of fell apart and it started to go to months, and then…

Coleen Nolan: And of course, Michael, your wonderful husband.

Lynda Bellingham: A saint.

Coleen Nolan: I have to call him Mr. Spain.

Lynda Bellingham: I know!

Coleen Nolan: I’ve never called him Michael.

Lynda Bellingham: He goes everywhere now. “Mister Spain!”

Michael Pattemore: I’m her carer now, aren’t I?

Coleen Nolan: You’re what?

Michael Pattemore: I’m her carer.

Lynda Bellingham: But we have to give him a round of applause because I have this thing about Christmas, right? Absolutely obsessed about Christmas. The one thing was… And can I put straight also I did not decide to die in November. No.

What I did was, because I was in pain, and I have to say the bad bits are… I could rob a bank because I’ve got no fingerprints.

Coleen Nolan: Have you thought about this?

Lynda Bellingham: I have.

Coleen Nolan: Yeah?

Lynda Bellingham: Well, I thought I’d come to you, love. I thought we’d have a little smash and grab job.

Coleen Nolan: Oh yeah, because I can be caught and locked up.

Lynda Bellingham: Yes, exactly.

Coleen Nolan: Great. Thanks, Lynda.

Lynda Bellingham: But I’ll be very nice about you…

Coleen Nolan: Thank you.

Lynda Bellingham: … and how much we need you.

But, yes. When you’re in pain you say things.

Janet Street-Porter: Yeah.

Lynda Bellingham: But again, after the operation, no control. That’s what I hate. Your body just throws these things at you.

So I went to the oncologist and I said, “Look. I do not want my husband or my children to remember me ill.” We all know I’m ill, but I want to go, just goodnight. So can I have a little box in which I put the ability to make that decision? I know it’s really weird, but we talked about it for years, as I say. Me and the boys and Michael… It gave me something.

It was a relief to think, “Well, if all else fails, nobody is gonna have a go at me.” I’m gonna turn around and say, “Switch off the chemo and let’s see what happens.”

That’s the biggest thing. As I keep saying, how embarrassing if I don’t die? Because people will think I just did it to sell the book.

[laughter and applause]

Janet Street-Porter: Isn’t the other thing that it gives you control? You’ve kept your dignity.

Lynda Bellingham: Thank you.

Janet Street-Porter: You have.

Lynda Bellingham: Well, coming from ‘Master Of’ I think…


Janet Street-Porter: Well, no. I mean, that’s why I loved working with you. You say it how it is, but you say it in a way that doesn’t upset people. You’re very forthright, you’re very direct, but you know exactly what you want and no one is going to deviate from you.

Lynda Bellingham: But you know what’s weird? What has been so wonderful about this year is that I have learned so much from people, first of all.

You know when you get a bit cynical in life… When they say yet again, “I’m so sorry. You’re not right for this part.”

Coleen Nolan: Yeah.

Lynda Bellingham: You learn so much, and the biggest thing… As you know, I’m not very confrontational, am I?

Coleen Nolan: No.

Lynda Bellingham: I’m a bit of a weed.

Of course, I have become very grumpy. But it’s amazing to be able to say things to people. It has taken me 66 years, Janet, to find any dignity.

Janet Street-Porter: But Lynda, have you settled scores? Have you rung up a few people?

Coleen Nolan: That’s dangerous!

Lynda Bellingham: Well, there’s another book if I could quickly fit it in. Oh boy, could I settle a few scores.

No, nor have I. No. The people who have done you down know they have done you down. Let them just sit in their gravy.

Coleen Nolan: Yeah, and they know they have.

Lynda Bellingham: Yeah.

Coleen Nolan: They have to live with that.

Lynda Bellingham: So let them suffer.

Coleen Nolan: Absolutely.

Lynda Bellingham: Neither have I gone… A couple of times have I gone to myself, “It’s not fair.”

To be honest, we have no right to live forever, you know. This thing about being given a horizon? You know how I love a survey.

Survey says you can live until you’re 80. Yes. Lovely. But it’s not a written, given… Somebody else decides when you pop off the twig.

Coleen Nolan: Yes.

Lynda Bellingham: Actually, can I just say that it’s quite weird? Obviously, work stopped. That was, apart from Michael and the boys, that was the really hardest… 45 years I have worked, and it was just all whipped away from me. Especially the play, A Passionate Woman, which was gonna be my…

Coleen Nolan: Yes.

Janet Street-Porter: Yeah.

Coleen Nolan: You were so looking forward to that.

Lynda Bellingham: …Sort of moment to shine. But Key Mellor has written me a scene in The Syndicate, which goes out next year.

Coleen Nolan: Really?

Lynda Bellingham: Yes.

Coleen Nolan: Oh, fantastic.

Lynda Bellingham: So I’m going to swan in and do a day, which is about what I could probably manage now. I am so chuffed.

Coleen Nolan: Because it’s work that drives you, isn’t it? Yeah, it has driven you.

Lynda Bellingham: Well, we are all defined by our work, aren’t we, really, in a way?

Coleen Nolan: Yeah. Absolutely.

But you love your work.

Lynda Bellingham: I do love my work.

Coleen Nolan: I do it for the money, to be fair.

Lynda Bellingham: I love her. She’s just so silly.


Janet Street-Porter: When are you gonna film it? Are you filming it in the next year?

Lynda Bellingham: I’m filming it in November.

Janet Street-Porter: Brilliant.

Lynda Bellingham: I’m going to Scarborough. Who wouldn’t want to dine out in Scarborough?

Coleen Nolan: Oh, beautiful. Beautiful.

Lynda Bellingham: So that’s really nice, and the cooking continues. I decided, at any time… That’s the other thing you must do, anybody who is suffering. You mustn’t give in. If you feel like lying down, don’t do it. Do it half an hour later. Just don’t do it. Just keep going.

I cannot believe… And hats off. I have always said how swiffery is the hardest job in the world and doesn’t get half enough praise.

Janet Street-Porter: I could see you still in control in the kitchen.

Coleen Nolan: Oh, she is.

Lynda Bellingham: And I cook. Except Christmas day, of course.

I spent months with my sister, because I love it. I try to recycle the balls, but no, we’ll have new ones.

It was the Christmas dinner. Oh my goodness! What are we gonna do? I had ordered this amazing turkey.

Anyway. Mr. Spain, who has never boiled an egg, cooked, washed a lettuce, cooked Christmas dinner for 16 people.

Audience: Wow.


Lynda Bellingham: He only had the odd thousandth text with a picture saying, “The potatoes don’t seem to be quite matching up to it.”

Michael Pattemore: The turkey cooked quicker than they said it would.

Lynda Bellingham: I know, darling. How were you to know?

So I’m lying there, me and Furby, singing Christmas songs to ourselves. I keep getting these texts. Well, I’d say to him, “Well, I’m now doing a very nice strip for you. If only you could see it.”

Coleen Nolan: So you are going to make it to this Christmas?

Lynda Bellingham: Bloody right I am. Oops!

Coleen Nolan: You absolutely are.

It’s all right! You can get away from it.

Janet Street-Porter: It’s all right.

Coleen Nolan: Don’t even apologise.

Lynda Bellingham: It’s the cancer.

Janet Street-Porter: Exactly. Cancer card.

Coleen Nolan: She keeps playing it.

Lynda Bellingham: Yes, I do.

Coleen Nolan: But you are going to make it to this Christmas with your family.

Lynda Bellingham: I am. I am.

Coleen Nolan: What are you hoping Santa will bring you?

Lynda Bellingham: Well, I have succumbed to not cooking it and I thought, “Poor Michael. You can’t put him through that again.”

Michael Pattemore: No.

Lynda Bellingham: So we’re going to go to a hotel and have the meal, but just my little bit of control. We’re going home for pudding and presents.

Audience: Aww.

Janet Street-Porter: Aww.

Lynda Bellingham: It’s exciting. My only problem is getting the presents.

But my sister Jean has been absolutely amazing, and I keep sending him [Michael] out for bizarre things.

The other thing is, you can’t taste anything. So you can’t even do comfort food acting because nothing tastes of anything. Except sugar, of course.

Janet Street-Porter: Are you decorating the tree by remote control?

Lynda Bellingham: Yes, exactly. Him.

Coleen Nolan: He’s your remote control.

Lynda Bellingham: Well, he has spent years trying to put me off having a real one, you see. We’re very lucky. We live in a converted psychiatric hospital.

Coleen Nolan: Perfect.

Lynda Bellingham: Which has got a very high ceiling. So all I’ve ever wanted is a real… No, don’t make me sweep up the pine needles. Oh my goodness.

Anyway. I’m getting one. I’m getting a real tree, and he will just have to struggle with it out the window afterwards but that’s fine.

Coleen Nolan: This is a hard question, but how would you like… Oh, I’m going to cry!

Lynda Bellingham: No. Don’t start. Don’t start.

Coleen Nolan: How would you like people to remember you?

Lynda Bellingham: Just as an honest person. I think honesty, and that’s why people will say, “Oh, she’s tells everything,” blah, blah. But we’ve been through this as Loose Women. You can’t do Loose Women unless you’re honest.

Coleen Nolan: Yeah.

Lynda Bellingham: You can’t hide anything. It really is honest when we answer questions. Anything I have done… That’s why I felt I could write about it and people would… Trust is a huge thing. Not just as an actor, not just as a lover, not just as a wife. That trust thing.

Just to say, “Well, you could trust her,” probably… As you know, I wanted to win an Oscar at 75 for best newcomer. Sadly that has gone out of the window.

Coleen Nolan: You should have. Absolutely.

Lynda Bellingham: Don’t cry. It’s gonna be fine.

Coleen Nolan: Really?

Lynda Bellingham: It’ll be fine! Yes. It will be fine. Don’t worry.

Coleen Nolan: Well, Lynda, can I just say thank you so much for coming in to see us. We love you. We miss you on the show.

Janet Street-Porter: You’re an inspiration.

Lynda Bellingham: Thank you for having me.

Coleen Nolan: Ladies and gentlemen, Lynda Bellingham.

Lynda Bellingham: Thank you.


Ruth Langsford: But for now we will leave you with how we’ll remember our friend and colleague Lynda Bellingham, the sassy, intelligent, funny, honest and irreplaceable Loose Woman.

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: Sir Kenneth Moore, as in who played Douglas Bader in Reach for the Sky, came up and asked me to dance at this do. I was thrilled. I thought, “This is it! I’m gonna be a star.”

Then he trod on it and ripped it.

Jane McDonald: Oh!

Lynda Bellingham: He said, “I’m so sorry! Is it a special dress?”

I said, “Oh, what? This old thing? No.”

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: Who’s this? Who’s this? “Oh, I think I’d rather have that coffee!”

Female Speaker: I have no idea!

Lynda Bellingham: Hello Jane!

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: Especially those ones in a lot of lycra with a helmet. They think they are serious cyclists and they come up beside you and bang on your roof. How dare they!

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: As you know, I hardly swear at all… [bleep]

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: Yes!

Lisa Maxwell: That was brilliant! You’ve still got it babe!

Lynda Bellingham: Got it in there!

Female Speaker: I know.

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: This is what’s called milking the gag.

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: Just make sure your dumplings are not boiling over.

Jane McDonald: No, actually!

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Andrea McLean: Over now to the velvety voiced Lynda Bellingham.

Lynda Bellingham: I needed that love Sherry gave me selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct.

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Andrea McLean: No, no. She’s a serious actress. She would be absolutely appalled if she could hear you.

Denise Welch: I know she would.

Lynda Bellingham: I never heard that in all of my life!

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: Can’t have a phone at my dinner table!

Now I’m going to do my cooking show. Fine idea! Toss in a bit of meat, a couple of vegetables and away you go, honestly. What’s difficult about that?

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: The government go on and on at kids about not smoking. They go on about obesity. They should be going on and on about drugs. On and on and on and on and on.

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Lynda Bellingham: Shut up!

[clip of speaker Lynda Bellingham]

Coleen Nolan: How would you like people to remember you?

Lynda Bellingham: Just as an honest person.

[end transcript]

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