ON STAGE, Nicola Park defies belief. She's four feet eleven inches of sheer energy, the Pavilion Theatre audiences' favourite funny girl.

Clydebank-born Nicola has been wowing audiences with her impeccable comic timing and irrepressible laugh for twenty years now.

But what those who'll see Nicola on stage in her latest appearance, in Real Hoosewives of Glesga, won't know is that Nicola's appearance defies nature itself.

The lady is diabetic, and relies upon four injections a day.

"I'm diabetic because most of my pancreas was scraped away," she reveals. "It was difficult at first with the injections, but I'm okay with it now.

"It's just something you come to terms with."

Nicola's problems began when she was seven months pregnant, and hit by the potentially fatal condition, pre-eclampsia.

Her son Jude, now eleven, was born healthy after an emergency Caesarean but Nicola had to be put on a life support machine at the Queen Mother's maternity hospital.

The actress, who has built a career around playing gallus Glasgow girls and has starred in Rab C Nesbit, fought her way out of the high dependency unit to delight in her son.

Then a gallstone problem flared up - again while she was at the Pavilion - and she was admitted to the high-dependency unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley - and didn't wake up for the next seven weeks.

One of Nicola's gallstones had infected her pancreas, in what doctors told her was a "one-in-a-million" chance.

Again, her family feared the worst, but she pulled through.

However, when she returned to the Pavilion stage, she was in a car crash in Glasgow's Great Western Road, suffered a broken nose, a broken wrist and severe whiplash,.

"How unlucky can I be?" said the Clydebank-born actress at the time.

Now, however, the actress considers herself to be very lucky indeed.

She came through the illnesses, including the removal of her gall bladder, and not long after the health traumas she met her husband, Stephen.

"I've known him my whole life," she offers. "We grew up together and he was a friend of my brother.

"But we met up again and he's the best thing that's every happened to me. We've now been married nine years and it's fantastic."

She adds, smiling; "He's as cheeky as me and he loves the theatre. We couldn't get on any better."

The couple have a daughter, Olivia who's now five. And Olivia also provided Nicola - and Stephen - with a real scare.

"Olivia was born twelve weeks premature. I had really high blood pressure and was on the verge of being seriously ill, so she had to be brought out.

"And when she was born she was only two pounds - and went down to one pound nine ounces the next day."

Nicola had feared she would be ill if she became pregnant again.

"I knew it would be tough," she says. "But Stephen and I wanted a baby. We believed it was a risk worth taking."

The pregnancy was even worse this time around.

"I really suffered. But thankfully, I got well and so did Olivia. Now, she's tiny, but hilarious. She's a real character and she loves singing and dancing.

"Every day she makes me laugh so much. She's exactly what I wanted. I couldn't be happier."

Nicola, now forty three, fought her way back to health. She's formed her own theatre school in Dumbarton, and teaches youngsters song and dance.

"I've got a dance academy and a stage school," she says, grinning. "They've been really successful. And I'm creating hundreds of wee Nicola Parks in the process."

But the real Nicola Park is back with Real Hoosewives, (it's a spoof on the tv shows, in which Glesga housewives end up auditioning for the show), playing Donna-Marie.

"She's crude, loud, and she thinks she's really funny. And she's always eating and always on diets. But she's a lovely character."

Nicola admits it took a while to get her character just right.

"Normally, I go on stage and play me," she says, laughing. "But Donna-Marie called for me to take time to think about how to play her.

"She thinks she's a lady, but is so unclassy, the type who picks her knickers out of her bum. And I love her. This is the favourite show I've done ever."

Nicola reckons the health problems, and the fact she was so close to death has proved to be positive.

"I think with it all I'm a better person," she says.

"It sounds corny but it's true. I've had another chance in life. Every day I think my wee boy could right now be without a mum."

* The Real Hoosewives by Stuart Thomas, also stars Michele Gallagher, Sandra McNeeley, Alyson Orr and Leah MacRae. The Pavilion Theatre, February 2-14.