She might be battling cancer, but the flame-haired TV favourite Cornelia Frances wasn’t going to miss out on her 77th birthday party – so the celebrations came to her hospital bed.
‘Mum had the best day, surrounded by some of her closest friends,’ says Cornelia’s son, Lawrence Eastland.
‘It was wonderful to see her smile and laugh.’
Cornelia is adored worldwide for playing some of TV’s most memorable villains – from the bitchy Sister Scott on The Young Doctors in the ’70s, to the conniving Barbara Hamilton on Sons And Daughters and then a 29-year stint as evil Morag Bellingham on Home And Away.
The actress was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2016. Sadly, the disease spread to her hip and, despite chemotherapy and radiation treatment, it has now metastasised to her spine.
‘Ever the trouper, she remains positive and is hoping for a miracle,’ says Lawrence, who gave up work and left his Byron Bay home nine weeks ago to hold vigil by his mother’s bedside in Sydney.
To ring in her birthday last Saturday, close friends including TV star turned bestselling author Judy Nunn, her actor-author husband Bruce Venables, showbiz stalwarts Paula Duncan and Andrew McFarlane, along with TV hunk Axle Whitehead, raised a glass to toast their great chum.
Lawrence says when he welcomed his now 17-year-old daughter Tipani, Cornelia’s eyes lit up with joy.
‘She adores being a doting grandmother,’ he says.
‘Mum has so much love for everyone. We’re enjoying every day, as best we can. If there is a spare miracle out there, please send it our way.’
Read the full story in this week's issue of New Idea, on sale now.