WHAT is this I hear on my earpiece? Kylie?

Breast cancer at 37? Not good news for the tiny one. So young, so successful, so nice. There's something about her, Kylie, though, isn't there? I mean, love her music or hate it, you can't help but bow in respect.

As one esteemed music critic put it once, you'd have to be dead not to rock to 'I Can't Get You Out of my Head', but most of the rest of her output has left me personally kind of cold (it's all a matter of taste, darling).

But Kylie herself is a trouper. A super trouper. You can tell, of course, by the perma smile on her face. Rain, hail, or shine, Kylie faces the press with her glowing white teeth on show. It's not a fake thing, you sense (although she is pretty much Always on Display), it's a pro thing. Kylie is the biggest professional in town; she holds it together when thousands wouldn't, never speaks about her men, or her break-ups with her men, never throws a diva tantrum, keeps working like a dog when all the rest are flaunting their bad-girl behaviour (Britney), their misshapen marriages (Jen), and launching hissy fits (Diana Ross). Kylie, I'll warrant, has never had a hissy fit in her life, and if she has, only her pet cat knows anything about it. Unlike most celebrities, desperate to prove themselves as serious artistes, and crudely dismissive of the media attention they provoke, Kylie appears genuinely grateful for all she has got.

Composed, contained, smiling, Kylie, ladies and gentlemen, officially rocks.

Through it all, she's also managed to retain something of the mystery about her.

That's why we love her so. She is everybody's favourite fantasy, particularly hairdressers and gay men: they just want to play with her. Prince Charles loves her, she sat next to him at a charity dinner; high fashion adores her, she has graced the cover of Vogue. She manages to be cool without being elitist, and trendy without being yawn-inducingly boring. Teeny weenies like her music, but people like me like her just because she's been around forever and has managed to hang in there. A little like David Beckham (until his recent downfall, tee hee), people have been able to project whatever fantasy they want onto Kylie, because despite all her ups and downs she has remained a blank canvas. Do we know what's really going on behind the smiles? Not on your life . . . and we never will. But we do know she has breast cancer. Despite the immensity of this piece of news . . . only 37, at the top of her game . . .

you can't help but be impressed, once again. She came right out and said it.

Straight away. Another star might have hid behind her publicity machine . . . she's tired, she's broken her leg, she has a sore throat . . .

but Kylie has had the guts to tell it like it is.

The result: an outpouring of grief, of course. But also, a discussion. Breast cancer, particularly young women with breast cancer, is in the news. It is not a death sentence. Caught early, it is very treatable. Ladies, be vigilant and keep an eye on your health. But medical advances have moved things on. There is good news.

This is important stuff. We of the (ahem) younger generation, can swan about the place believing we will live forever until something calamitous pulls us up short and teaches us how life really is. I know the first time I bumped up against serious illness and death, I spent the next few years walking around corners in states of fear and trepidation. Every unexpected phonecall meant traumatic tidings, everyone was vulnerable, everything transient.

Kylie's traditional chin-up attitude . . . "I was so looking forward to bringing the Showgirl tour to Australian audiences and am sorry to have to disappoint my fans.

Nevertheless, hopefully all will work out fine and I'll be back with you all again soon." . . . proves that everything is indeed vulnerable, but also that life is life, things happen, bad and good, and you look for ways to take the rough with the smooth.

Pop stars and film stars are the role models for contemporary society. Manicured, coiffed, beautiful, they lead the way in fashion, beauty, and just about everything else, stamping their lifestyles all over impressionable young teenagers, promoting an unattainable image of health, wealth and happiness. Until one of them gets breast cancer. And actually talks about it.

Kylie rocks because she never gives up.

She held firm to her dreams of pop stardom when her music was going nowhere and her critics panned her. She was smart and savvy enough to change direction when she figured out what worked for her and what didn't. She's been a role model half her life and now, unexpectedly, she's become a role model for an altogether different reason, starting people talking in measured terms about something that is really serious and could really happen to anyone. The world is rooting for you Kylie. Get well soon.