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06th Feb 2024

When did it become acceptable to make jokes about cancer? Social media reacts to King Charles’ diagnosis

Jody Coffey

King Charles cancer diagnosis

During a recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a form of cancer was identified.

Yesterday, news broke that Britain’s King Charles III had been diagnosed with an unspecified form of cancer.

Buckingham Palace announced that the King would be receiving ‘regular treatment’ and remains ‘wholly positive’ despite his diagnosis.

The statement also added that he chose to go public with his cancer diagnosis ‘to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer.’

Since his diagnosis went public, X (formerly Twitter) has been flooded with posts making light of this health update, seemingly allowing views about the monarchy to override humanity.

These included jokes by users about the speculated length of King Charles’ reign in the wake of his diagnosis, theories the royal family is being reincarnated into children of YouTuber Trisha Paytas, and anger about the UK’s health system.

Regardless of one’s views on the Royal Family, when did it become acceptable to wish ill will on another human being by turning such a health battle into a humorous topic?

The CSO reports that in Quarter 2 of 2023, cancer and circulatory disease were the biggest causes of death in Ireland, accounting for 5,028 (or 57.5%) of deaths.

In 2020, the World Health Organisation reported that almost 10 million people worldwide lost their lives to the disease, making it a leading cause of death globally.

Given these devastating statistics, shouldn’t we take the life-threatening disease more seriously and with more respect, more so because the chances of someone impacted by cancer seeing this flippancy for cancer are so high?

The frivolous nature of these posts may be deeply upsetting to a person who has lost a loved one to cancer.

It may also send a strong message to anyone who may have just received a diagnosis themselves, as well as their family members.

That’s before we consider the fact that cancer isn’t selective. Any one of us, at any time, could develop the disease.

With that, regardless of people’s actions, don’t we all deserve the same sympathy in the face of such affliction?

It’s just a question.

This health update doesn’t have to change one’s view of the King, but it doesn’t have to make us side with cancer either, given that it’s already taken so much from the world.

The cancer diagnosis will force the King to postpone public-facing duties for the time being; however, the statement states that he “looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible”.

If you or someone in your life is concerned about cancer you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society (ICS) Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700 (Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm)

General Enquiries can be made by calling 01-2310500 and for all Fundraising queries call 0818 10 20 30

Their team will answer any questions you have, or concerns, or provide support if just need a safe space to talk.

The ICS has several events, ways to help out and raise funds and/or awareness for cancer research.