Full video: Topp Twins defiant after cancer diagnoses

Source: 1News

The Topp Twins have spent most of their lives together, sharing the stage, the songs and the ups and downs. In an exclusive interview with Sunday, Jools and Lynda reveal they have both been diagnosed with breast cancer - but they can't be with each other as they go through it.

Topp Twins Jools and Lynda are meant to be celebrating 40 years of advocacy and performance.

Over the decades, they've delighted Kiwis with their music, comedy and beloved characters like Camp Mother and Camp Leader, Ken and Ken.

From birth, the pair have shared almost everything. But, for the first time, the 63-year-olds can't be together for one of the biggest challenges of their lives - they both have cancer.

And because of the risk of contracting Covid-19, the twins are protecting each other by staying apart.

"I don't know what's harder - having cancer or not having Jools here," Lynda told TVNZ's Sunday.

Lynda Topp.

Jools was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 at 48. She had a mastectomy and months of gruelling chemotherapy followed. She pulled through.

"It was a miracle," Jools said. "We got through it, and we went back and did the recovery tour."

Years passed with Jools' cancer in remission, but last year she began to feel unwell again. She told Lynda she suspected her cancer might have worsened.

Lynda said it made her "extremely worried". It also meant she couldn't get to Jools.

In lockdown, Jools was without her sister when her doctor confirmed the worst: her cancer had spread. She has six tumours in her chest wall.

"It's in the bone of my sternum and now it's gone into my throat."

A CT scan then revealed she had a new tumour between her ninth and tenth ribs.

Jools said it was the first time her cancer had "ever really been painful".

"The doctor now says I'm on palliative care. That basically means I've got painkillers if it gets bad."

Jools said doctors might be able to "do some radiation" on the growth on her back "and not burn the rest" of her body.

"As a lifelong member of Greenpeace, I can't let them radiate me," she laughed. "I just can't do it!"

A double-whammy

Covid-19 had already been devastating for the twins. It meant cancelled performances and lost income. But, more importantly, it meant they couldn't be together - cancer's effect on Jools' immune system raising the risks posed by the virus.

Then Lynda found out she had grade 3 invasive breast cancer - fast-growing and likely to spread.

"So, all of a sudden, boom. In Covid, I can't be with Jools. I came out of the office at St George's Hospital and I sat in the car. I just burst into tears."

Jools did the same when she found out.

"Just cried and cried and cried. Uncontrollable crying, sobbing crying."

Jools Topp.

Lynda - who had a double mastectomy in December last year - was now facing chemotherapy.

"There was a moment when I remember thinking in the car, 'What am I going to do about Camp Mother?' 'Cause Camp Mother, she's got lovely big breasts that have been holding up those jumpsuits for 30-odd years. I cried about that."

A few days after the double mastectomy, Lynda put on Ken's jacket and buttoned it up.

"That's the first time I've ever, ever done Ken's jacket up in 30 years of that character. I went, 'I'm not even Ken anymore.' I got frightened about that, that I lost my characters."

But Ken would probably tell her to keep her spirits up, Lynda said.

"Maybe Camp Mother just might go, 'I've got breast cancer and it's OK. It's OK to have your mastectomy and just to be OK with it.'"

Doing it alone

Lynda has her wife Donna to help look after her. While Jools takes comfort in this, it's different for her.

"I chose to be single 'cause I have cancer because I know, at some point in time, I'm going to go. I won't be here. And I don't want someone to get that close.

"I think I'm also protecting myself. I'm exhausted. I'm dealing with my cancer every day of my life and sometimes I think I wouldn't be able to give all myself to somebody. It's just too hard."

She said the love of friends and her horses helped.

Jools Topp.

Jools said there would be "tears before bedtime if one of us dies", but the other would have to go on.

"[Lynda will] have to do without me to go on living, to go on living. It's really important to know that. You know, sometimes in death, we might find strength."

As serious as things are, neither twin is planning an imminent or quiet exit.

"I want to live and Jools wants to live," Lynda said.

"I might outlive the lot of you! We don't know!" added Jools, with a grin.

Rather than an end, Lynda said it was a "new beginning" for the pair.

"Jools has to get her pain under control, I have to get through my chemo, and there's a 40th anniversary that needs to be celebrated."

Both said the music would never stop.

"If I can hold a guitar and stand up over a mic, there'll be no stopping me," Jools said.

"The Topp Twins will always be the Topp Twins and we'll always want to perform," added Lynda.

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