However uniquely awful it is to be told you have cancer, the experience is one that many millions of us will have to go through.
The latest research shows that in the UK alone, some 50 per cent of the population alive in 2025 will get the disease. Count in their friends and relatives, and that means everybody is going to be touched by cancer, either directly or indirectly.
This is on the face of it very bad news: the incidence of this horrible disease is going up, for all sorts of reasons, and literally everybody will be affected as a result.
My mother remembers hearing her own mother and grandmother whispering in the back of a taxi in Manchester. That was the 1950s and they’d just visited a friend in hospital. My Mum, a child at the time, worked out that the friend had cancer. The word was unmentionable, a sure precursor of death, and sure enough the friend soon died.