I went to the Royal Free Hospital in London’s Hampstead this morning because of Stephen Fry.
No, he didn’t accidentally send me flying in the icy conditions - he tripped me up in quite another way.
Last week, as a follower of the great man on Twitter, I watched the video message he’d Tweeted about being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
As anyone who has spared the 13 illuminating minutes to listen to his story will attest, it is a remarkable public information film.
So where did Fry succeed where all the other public information films, advertising campaigns, doctors’ surgery text prompts, sleepless self-questioning nights and various other potential spurs telling me to go for a prostate cancer screening had failed?
I am not a young man and I have enjoyed myself over the years, shall we say, but thankfully without any apparent detrimental side effects to my health.
My immune system appears to be fairly robust, especially when it comes to an attack from health check requests. So how did Stephen break it down?
With two things - his Stephen Fry-ness and the words he used. The two are inextricably linked in my mind, because he always uses the right words.
His video speech didn’t just teach me a lot about prostate cancer, it taught me even more about how we should communicate with each other on issues such as this.
And as someone who works in the communication industry, I thought I should bloody well listen up to what his video was telling me.
Firstly, it is ironic that the social media platform founded on 140 characters should give me the opportunity to be swayed by a 13 minute monologue, because Christ knows how many characters were in Fry’s speech.
If you want to change people’s behaviour or opinions, when they are as ingrained as mine were, brevity can be empty and inadequate. A beautifully articulated message that’s going to hit home needs no time constraints, as the right words can make time fly.
Secondly, and without trying to deconstruct the aforementioned phenomenon that is Stephen Fry-ness, there is the way you say the right words.
Stephen used words which were mind-scrambling, a spaghetti of syllables, all of which I took in without fear of ignorance because he fed them to me in his message like a nurse giving a child a spoonful of medicine. He has a great bedside manner, if you will.
His vastly superior knowledge of the subject through experience and presumably research was shared with something so often missing from health awareness campaigns - empathy. So often they either preach, lecture, scare or patronise.
It appears that Stephen is teaching us that sometimes we just need to have a chat about these things, and if millions overhear that chat, all the better.
Lastly, Stephen Fry has the advantage of knowing more of the right words than most people and has a well-turned phrase for every occasion, many of which he invents himself from a vocabulary he must have to keep in an aircraft hangar. He also has the added weapons of cadence, oratory, charisma and humour.
Of course, not every health campaign, charity or cause has a Stephen Fry to call on.
But it’s worth all of them at least trying to employ people who know how to use the right words.
Prostate cancer has now overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest killer in the UK (lung cancer is the biggest, with bowel cancer second).
But while most women know about screening for breast cancer – mammograms – not as many men know about screening for prostate cancer – which includes a blood test called the PSA test as well as a physical examination.
If you’re over 50, you can decide to have to PSA test done voluntarily for free on the NHS, even if you don’t have any possible prostate cancer symptoms, which can include needing to pee more often, feeling like you can’t fully empty your bladder, or straining to go.
I won’t know the results of my tests until next Wednesday but hopefully, they will give me a completely undeserved clean bill of health.
Not all men at my stage of life are that lucky. But if they are lucky enough to hear a story told the way Stephen tells it, they might have the tests which can make a difference.
So talk to your GP about prostate cancer.
I like my life and as Stephen so perfectly puts it using all the right words as usual, I’d ‘rather it didn’t go away’.
The right words can save lives. Just listen to Stephen Fry…