Before her tragic passing, Aussie actress Carmen Duncan sat down with Woman's Day in 2017 to talk about how she got through a horror year of health scares with the help of her amazing sister Paula...
Beloved showbiz sisters Carmen and Paula Duncan are quietly giving thanks for each other after Carmen's "horror" cancer scare from "hell", which has brought them even closer.
"Looking back, it was truly a shocker for us both," revealed Paula, who almost lost big sister Carmen after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Carmen feared she may only have months to live after the terrifying diagnosis.
"It was my third bout of cancer, having survived both breast and colon cancer," she said.
"In May 2017, after feeling something was wrong and undergoing an array of tests and biopsies, I was told I may have a rare type of aggressive cancer."
The gorgeous grandmother-of-three says her blood ran cold upon hearing the dreaded C-word again – but her "sanity saver" was the immense love and support of her wonderful family, including her two children Duncan and Amelia, her brothers Warren and Bob and, of course, her sister Paula.
"There was a risk during surgery I may lose my voice for good… so I know there was an angel on my shoulder because I've lived to tell the tale," Carmen said.
Seven-time Logie winner Paula, who also ended up in hospital after knee reconstruction surgery, says both she and Carmen just want to put their struggled behind them.
"On the upside, it's proven yet again we can always rely on each other, especially when the chips are down," smiles Paula, who says she and Carmen are "psychically attuned".
"I know what Carmie is thinking, and vice-versa."
Carmen, 75, says she was also shocked and saddened to learn former TV current affairs king Mike Willesee was battling cancer.
"We are very close friends – have been for decades – and he's been through the wringer. I'm very worried about Mike."
Animal-loving Paula, 65, who starred with her then-husband John Orcsik in Cop Shop, says it's been one heartbreaking blow after another for her family.
"I'm totally dog mad and after three failed marriages I no longer put my trust in men, but I certainly do in my furry friends," she says, revealing she had to say goodbye to her 16-year-old border collie Tinkerbell in 2017.
"It was devastating and I'll never get over it."
Just weeks later, Paula had to have a knee reconstruction, and ended up spending three months undergoing rehab when she fractured her foot after the operation.
"Then, just as Carmen was recovering from thyroid surgery, our beloved brother Bob died of lung cancer," says Paula, holding back tears.
Giving her sister a loving hug, Carmen says 77-year-old Bob was a thorough gentleman and such a fighter.
"He'd had cancer for seven years. He was so stoic and so brave. Bobbo's passing knocked us for a loop – that was the worst moment of the year for us all," admits Carmen, who says the heartache brought her even closer to Paula.
"Our lives have always been a rollercoaster and, like all sisters, sometimes our relationship has been strained," she says.
"But we've always had great love, care and respect for one another."
Paula says despite some sisterly rivalry over the years, the two of them have always been each other's biggest fans.
"ln all honesty, we've never been jealous of one another's successes," she adds.
With a collective 104 years in the showbiz industry, Carmen and Paula have, between them, appeared in almost every drama series on Australian television.
Carmen made a splash in the 1980s, playing arch bitch Iris Wheeler on the hit US soap Another World, for which she received an Emmy nomination, before family lured her home.
"Despite the glitter and glamour of working in Hollywood and New York, I genuinely missed my family, my brothers and my baby sister Paula, which is why I called it quits and returned to Australia in the late '90s."
Carmen recently finished making Hotel Mumbai with Dev Patel, and she'd love to work with her sister.
"We'd love to appear on a TV series together again. The only time we've shared the screen was in an episode of Cop Shop."
Paula also remembers the time they appeared in a play together but couldn't stop giggling!
"After enduring a frightful run of heartache and health scares, we've made a pact that, as sisters, we'll always have each other's backs," she says.
"We've made a promise to catch up for lunch every couple of weeks, no matter how busy we are. We'll make the time!
"Life is too short and time is too precious!"