This is not really happening.

I am a journalist by training. I am not scared of words. They are my tools and my building blocks.

So I am not scared by the word “cancer”. I do not speak it in a whisper, as if quietness could reduce its impact. I do not leave it out of sentences, as if ignoring the word could abolish the reality. It's just six letters, a phonetic representation that we use to communicate an idea.

But I found that impossible to remember when my sister phoned to tell me that Christmas round hers might be disrupted because the cysts in her breast weren't cysts at all, and she had to go back in hospital on Friday – with chemotherapy and radiotherapy to follow.

Yup, breast cancer.

Those of you who believe in the power of prayer, her name's Sarah and she could use a little help right now.