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”
However uniquely awful it is to be told you have cancer, the experience is one that many millions of us will have to go through.
The latest research shows that in the UK alone, some 50 per cent of the population alive in 2025 will get the disease. Count in their friends and relatives, and that means everybody is going to be touched by cancer, either directly or indirectly.
This is on the face of it very bad news: the incidence of this horrible disease is going up, for all sorts of reasons, and literally everybody will be affected as a result.
My mother remembers hearing her own mother and grandmother whispering in the back of a taxi in Manchester. That was the 1950s and they’d just visited a friend in hospital. My Mum, a child at the time, worked out that the friend had cancer. The word was unmentionable, a sure precursor of death, and sure enough the friend soon died.
Continue reading “Alive with cancer – why more of us are”
“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”