Writing about cancer is probably a bad idea cover image

Writing about cancer is probably a bad idea

Andy Hawthorne • July 12, 2019


Writing about a medical condition like cancer is scary. It’s a big subject and it’s easy to get things wrong.

The first question is: why would anyone want to write about cancer? For me, the answer is simple.

I want to show that having cancer isn’t always a horror story. It isn’t always fatal or even life threatening. And there's no need to be afraid of it.

The problem is: many people go through hell and suffer a lot. And it's those stories that cause the fear.

So, striking the right balance is difficult. And for that reason it makes cancer a tricky subject to approach.

For a start, you run the risk of annoying people who have cancer. Or upsetting them. Maybe even causing them distress.

I definitely don’t want to do any of that.

You also run the risk of getting the facts wrong. Cancer is a complex subject and there are many different types.


I’m still going to try and write about it. Because everyone has their own story. Many of them are full of suffering and pain. Many are distressing, not only for patients but also for their families.

I’m going to try and keep all those things in mind as I write.

There are some talented and driven people working hard at the medical science part. So I shouldn't miss out that work, or the people doing it. There are loads of frontline medical staff working hard for cancer patients on a daily basis.

That combination of human stories and science makes writing about cancer compelling. Even though it could be fraught with the risk of saying the wrong thing.

I thought about it for a good while. And it still feels like a worthwhile challenge. Because there are still untold stories. There are still things that are useful for people to know.

Not only that, but there are still many things I’d like to know.

So, please bear with me while I go through this process. I’ve decided to write up what I know as I discover it. That means I may have to correct things as a go.

All which raises one question: what qualifies me to write this stuff?

Do you need qualifications to write about it? I’ve trained as a feature writer so I know how to research a piece. But is that enough?

Maybe. One thing is for sure, I’m not a medical professional of any kind.

So what then?

Well, I have a bladder cancer diagnosis and I've had surgery for it. So that’s a start, I guess...