Cancer, communication and a clusterf*ck

(Off topic but I am loving the fact that this image has, in the corner, a reference to 50 Shades…)

A famous person got cancer. Oh dear, what a shame, etc. Most reasonable people feel the same fleeting moment of sympathy as they do if told a workmate’s cousin got it: that’s sad, sorry to hear that, hope they feel better soon, then move on to this week’s sales figures or who’s seen the shift rota, or are you going on lunch now?

Catherine Windsor’s cancer is likely to be noted in history as one of the most spectacular media clusterfucks in quite a while, though.  Really, what were her press team thinking? Not only is this hardly their first dance, but they had an example of how to handle serious celebrity health issues right in front of them, involving the same famous family, and they still got pretty much everything wrong.

Charles Windsor has prostate cancer, and is receiving treatment. His media team made statements to this effect; those who don’t despise the Windsor parasites generally reacted as above, oh dear, that’s sad, what’s for dinner? Prostate cancer is fairly common among older men and relatively curable; it is also one of those ailments that is a little undignified and has a certain amount of comedy value (as with anything bowel/genital related). Still, the announcements were made in a straightforward fashion and everyone apart from the obsessive moved on.

Catherine’s staff, though, seem to have been completely asleep at the switch. Whether she initially got a full gibleting (having produced enough heirs for it to be OK to shift the now-obsolete and discomfort-causing organs) or got sent to hospital after repeated bouts of violent diarrhoea, an on-the-ball, highly-paid press officer should have been able to put out a politely-worded statement *and* been capable of adding equally polite updates when necessary. And the minute they spotted that the speculation was starting to get out of hand, they could have put out another one that didn’t sound as though the Establishment had something to hide.

cancerThey are the ones who screwed up the most, here. Maybe they were worried that two members of the same ‘special’ family undergoing simultaneous acute illnesses would be too much in some way, and Charlie outranks Kate and bababababa status and hierarchy so they thought they could just brush it off as ‘don’t ask questions about your betters, you don’t need to know this stuff, you’ve been given something to throw flowers, thoughts and prayers at anyway’. Now it’s being turned into some sort of ‘You peasants are to blame for this because you didn’t know your place, how dare you?’

Unfortunately, the Windsors’ deal is that they perform for those paying for them. It has been for decades. It’s not working out terribly well for anyone, of course: lots more of us are unsure what the fuck we are paying *for*. Maybe cancer diagnoses are a part of the story arc we could all do without. Especially those who either have cancer or know someone close who is dealing with it *and* dealing with a lot of other things Catherine Windsor is at least not bothered by: will I lose my job, will I be evicted, will I be able to afford to keep warm and eat what the doctors recommend I eat? Will my appointment be cancelled due to staff shortages? Will I be able to get to the hospital and back now they’ve rerouted the buses again? What’s going to happen to my kids when I’m too wiped out to look after them, even if I survive?

Both Catherine and Charles will be getting the absolute best medical treatment there is. Both may be scared, upset and in pain or discomfort despite all the money and privilege. Catherine, as a parent of young children, will be dealing with additional grief and worry about the effect on them. It’s tough, sure, but competent media teams can surely manage that side of things for them. While the rest of us deal with our own, far more important business.

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