Why communications makes the cancer experience less awful

Years after the diagnosis, I was sitting in a clammy hospital chair, at last undergoing the tedious process of chemotherapy, poisonous goo dripping into my bloodstream. It wasn’t anything like as bad as the doctor had predicted: I barely felt sick and my hair didn’t even fall out.

I found myself reflecting on the connection between my day job – advising companies and individuals on how to communicate, often during times of crisis – and what I was going through. How should people talk to you when they know you have cancer, and how should you talk to them?

The first rule of professional corporate communications is to divide your audience into stakeholders: categories of people who matter to you in different ways. For a big company, these would include your shareholders, employees, customers, regulators, the media, all requiring a subtly different but fundamentally consistent message.

Continue reading “Why communications makes the cancer experience less awful”

Hearing the Worst

“You are going to have a horrible time,” the doctor said, “a really horrible time.”

I had turned up for what I thought was a routine appointment with the consultant. He looked at his notes, then at me, before leaning over his desk and telling me that the test had come back positive.

I did not feel any physical pain, but a numbing sense of shock. His words were well meant, but not reassuring as I found myself going into battle with cancer.

After the diagnosis, I had a million questions, ranging from – can I be cured, how are you going to treat me and – the most pertinent question of all – how long have I got? Like millions of others, I suffered an agony of uncertainty and anxiety.

Continue reading “Hearing the Worst”