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Women talk: In times of trouble, call on the girls

In times of need you need your friends. Family comes first, always, but the girls are there right behind them when it comes to talking and laughing and just generally sharing life's ups and downs.

So, when Josie asked me a couple of weeks ago had I lost a bit of weight, I decided it was time to come clean.

"I've found a lump deep under my arm," I said. That stopped the three of them in their tracks and some of Maggie's hot chocolate actually dribbled down her chin and dripped onto her new white shirt. She'll probably bill me for that.

This week it was time for the update, which I found as hard to tell as it was hard to be told. In the end, I jumped right to it.

"The bad news, girls, is that I have breast cancer and the lump under my arm is malignant cells in my lymph node," I said.

If there were Oscars for sheer incredulity, the three of them would have to split it. Taking advantage of their silence and, let's face it, that doesn't happen too often, I managed to get in that I'd had a phone call from the hospital that morning to let me know that my CT scan and bone scan were clear which, to me, was like winning the lotto. The malignant cells were still contained in the lymph node.

Maggie started crying. The other two peppered me with questions as if I was a contestant on Mastermind.

Did I find a lump in my breast too? No.

Did my mother know? Yes, because she has a nose like a polecat and can smell trouble at 50 yards.

Will I have to have the whole breast removed? Yes.

Will I have to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy? Yes.

Will my hair fall out? Probably.

Will I wear a wig? Yes, a long blonde one that falls over my left eye like Kim Basinger.

Can I have reconstructive surgery? Yes.

Can I get a bigger breast? I suppose so, but why would I want one big one and one little one?

"So when are you having your mastectomy?" asked Josie.

"The day after tomorrow," I replied. Pandemonium broke out as Maggie and Patsy fought over who would buy me a pair of jammie's.

Josie and I let them at it.

"So," she said, as she put an arm around my shoulder. "This could be the end of your ambition to become a page three oldie."

We laughed at the thought of it. She's right but, in the scheme of things, I don't really mind . . .