James Spiro

Cancer is cruel; Princess Kate needs us not to be

When a mother of young kids needs to go public with her diagnosis to shut down internet speculation, the armchair observers have gone too far
Photo Credit: Screenshot, X -@KensingtonRoyal
(Screenshot, X - @KensingtonRoyal)

Weeks of rumors and conspiracy theories were put to rest yesterday with the announcement that Catherine, princess of Wales, has been diagnosed with an undisclosed cancer and is seeking treatment in the form of chemotherapy. 

In a video posted to X, she spoke frankly and eloquently about her diagnosis and assured us all that “I am well and getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal; in my mind, body, and spirits.” She is the third member of the royal family to announce a diagnosis after King Charles and Sarah, duchess of York, earlier this year. 

The announcement has caused thousands of internet users to quickly delete or rethink jokes they had posted at the princess’s expense as she recovered from a planned abdominal surgery. As her absence became more apparent, so too did rumors and jokes that she was kidnapped, dead, or somehow operating the doomed Willy Wonka Experience in Scotland. 

Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, John Oliver, and Blake Lively had all made jokes at her expense — with only the latter acknowledging poor judgment in her ridicule. 

Those who have had close proximity to cancer, of which there are many, know the disease is indiscriminate and ignores race, color, or creed. It cares not for title or tiara, and disregards family or fortune. Its name alone is cancerous: the sound of it invades and perverts our psyches, triggering those with whom it has come into contact either directly or through loved ones.

And yet during what has surely been one of the most traumatic moments of their lives, the prince and princess of Wales were forced to endure online speculation in silence until feeling obligated to set the record straight. Regardless of personal sentiment towards the royal family and the monarchy, it is time to look at ourselves and consider the implications of online actions that got us here.

Yesterday’s video didn’t just show the return of the princess to the public eye. It showed a 42-year-old mother of three young children publicly addressing a private health matter because internet users and American celebrities disregarded her privacy and added strain to a turbulent time in their lives. Kensington Palace had in January confirmed she would be out of the public eye until “after Easter,” yet jokes about her absence only intensified as weeks went on. 

Anyone with a brain or heart must have known that something was not right. The palace had remained coy about her whereabouts (not always effectively, admittedly), and the media offered them appropriate space, aside from addressing the conspiracy theories that had bubbled online. 

Prince William, who has kept strong amid unbelievable pressures, now has to care for both his sick wife and father, continue to protect their young children, and prepare to one day rule a nation — all as his brother shamelessly slanders him from California for paychecks from content companies. Sensitive hearts may want to pause and acknowledge the prince’s new fear that their children could inherit not only his crown, but also his trauma of losing a parent at a young age. It is sadly a fate bestowed on too many of us and I continue to hope history does not rhyme with the tragedy seen one generation ago. 

The prince deserves compassion and respect as a husband, father, and son trying to keep his family together, amid various health crises and public relations challenges. The princess, in turn, deserves privacy and comfort as she undergoes treatment with the support of her children and family members. Surely royalists and republicans can agree on that basic principle. If not, we are doomed. 

For now, we will all likely go back to our lives having forgotten someone ever made a joke in the first place. Curiosity will move to newer online trending topics, some trivial and some more consequential, but their pain as a family will remain long after the quips are gone. So let this moment be a lesson for us to practice grace and compassion — we are better than the avatars and clout we live among online. 

I wish the princess of Wales, King Charles, and the royal family peace, privacy, and comfort during their recovery — for them and for the nation.

About the Author
James Spiro is a journalist and editor at CTech by Calcalist, where he reports on Israel's tech sector and moderates conferences across Europe, North America, and Asia. He has a background in journalism and public relations and can often be found Tweeting his thoughts: @JamesSpiro
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