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Deborah Hutton was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 aged just 49. She had given up smoking 23 years previously, ran half marathons and was a self-proclaimed “nutrition nut”.

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While living with advanced cancer, she wrote a book called What Can I do To help? about her own battle with illness and offering advice to family and friends about how best to help.

Famous faces from north London helped Deborah and recorded their advice in her anthology, published in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care shortly before her death in 2005.

These are their words.

To buy a copy of the book visit www.shortbooks.co.uk or Amazon.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, politician and former aide to Tony Blair, spent time with his friend John, diagnosed with cancer.

“I started to see that my role was to try to keep him laughing. John and I both shared a wacky sense of humour about journalism and the world around us and I saw it as my job to make sure no matter how much pain he was in, no matter how weak he was, we would have at least one minor hysteria session every visit.”

“I wanted to help John address the actual fear of dying. He said if there was one thing he asked of me, it was to make sure Ellie [his daughter] never forgot him and that Hope [his unborn child] got to know a little of him through his friends.”

MAUREEN LIPMAN, actress and writer whose husband Jack Rosenthal died of cancer in 2004.

“We found we had two sorts of friends. There are the people who say rather helplessly ‘I wish there was something I could do’ and there are the people who stick a casserole on your doorstep. You don’t need sympathy. What you need is someone who can put themselves in your place and see where the need is.”

ESTHER RANTZEN, journalist and TV presenter, who worked with a child at ChildLine whose mother had cancer.

“It’s extremely difficult to take in bad news. Cancer, even if it is treatable, is such bad news that the first reaction is to go into shock; the brain feels numb, and it’s impossible to frame questions, to sort out plans, to ask what the next steps are. So phoning a friend can give everyone the opportunity to work out exactly what questions to ask the healthcare professionals about treatment and prognosis, and the available support; all the information that seems so obvious when it’s not happening to you, but so confusing when it is.”

CLIVE ANDERSON, comedy writer and radio and TV presenter, is a Highbury resident.

“Cancer? Help! Until recently you could scarcely mention the Big C by name. Like the D***l in a Victorian novel or the Evil One in Harry Potter, it was a dreadful visitation by malign forces beyond our ken and usually beyond medical science. And only to be referred to in hushed tones. Well the science is better now and I think we are all better talking about carcinomas, tumours, chemo and radiotherapy and the rest of it. So just being there to talk about it might be the best help we can give.”

JON SNOW, journalist and Channel 4 newsreader, who did a charity bike ride to raise awareness of prostate cancer last year.

“When my friend was diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things we did was to confirm the bookings for a shared summer holiday our families had talked loosely about. At times the holiday looked all but impossible, but everyone remained committed and it became an almost emblematic light at the end of the chemo tunnel.”

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