Controlling the message: how I told the world I had cancer

January 23rd, 2015

In this age of social media, there is a running joke that it didn’t really happen unless you posted it on Facebook. All major events of my life have been documented on there: my wedding, my 30th birthday and now my cancer diagnosis.

In November, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I have no family history and of course, I was only 29. For the first few weeks I only told my immediate friends and family, partly because I was still finding out details of my diagnosis and what it meant for my future, and also because I was embarrassed. Who gets cancer in their 20s?

However, a few weeks in and with a positive prognosis, the comms person in me kicked in and I decided to ‘control the message’. It was a matter of time until people would start to hear whispers and the last thing I wanted was gossip and people assuming I was dying.

I was also shocked at how many other young women confessed to me that they didn’t do self-examinations as they either thought they were too young or too scared. If I hadn’t checked, my outlook could have been very different by the time it was discovered.

So I wrote a post on Facebook explaining what had happened, how important it was that young women understood how essential it is to do self-examinations and provided links to charities people could donate to if they were feeling generous. I wanted something positive to come out of my experience. I honestly didn’t expect much of a response as I thought it would make people feel very uncomfortable. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming and I’m so glad I did it.

I’m now two months in and I have decided it was time to write this blog in an attempt to once again control the message. I have been absent on Twitter for a while and although a few people in the industry know, I wanted all the lovely people I have met and worked with over the years to hear this from me:

I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in November. I had a lumpectomy and became cancer free also in November. I am currently on long term sick leave and receiving treatment but I will be ok. I’m really looking forward to seeing you all again in the summer albeit with slightly less hair!

In the meantime, if you guys feel generous I have put links to some amazing charities below and please do all check your boobs!

Amazing charities:

Breast cancer care


Maggies Wallace

Categories: Breast cancerHelen DeverellInternal communication

7 responses to “Controlling the message: how I told the world I had cancer”

  1. kcarter says:

    Great post Helen. You have such a positive outlook which I’m sure is a true inspiration to others.

  2. Carla Phelps says:

    Hi Helen, such amazing courage – I wish you a continued (and speedy) recovery Cx

  3. You’re wonderful Helen, am very glad you decided to hit publish on this post. Beautifully controlled, and I have every confidence in your ability to kick cancer to the kerb, Rachel

  4. davewraith says:

    That must have been a crazy and scary few months. All the best with your continued recovery Helen.

  5. Daniel says:

    Helen, it takes a brave person to share a private revelation within a public setting. Thank you for sharing – you never know who may benefit from hearing about your courage and insight.

  6. […] wrote on her blog in January about controlling the message: how I told the world I had cancer. An extract from her post is […]

  7. […] year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and after much deliberation I decided to tell people via my blog. I wanted to control the message about what was happening to me and I also wanted to raise […]

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“Helen’s passion for her profession shines through very clearly and she manages to combine her deep knowledge of internal communications with a mix of pragmatism and fresh thinking. She is a delight to work with and has a high level of integrity.”

Richard Fitzmaurice, TMF Group