Cancer survivor teams up with students to spread awareness of lymphoma in a public relations campaign
In January 2019, after experiencing swelling and decreased mobility in his left arm, leading to months of physical therapy and a series of misdiagnoses, Michael Francis, a current BYU senior studying economics, was told he had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“It was scary. There were a lot of unknowns,” said Francis, “There was this lingering unknown about my future; how things were gonna work out, how other aspects of my life would be affected, what my long-term health would look like.” He learned very quickly that his support system, consisting of his parents, siblings, friends, and then-girlfriend, would mean everything throughout his recovery. Francis told his story of lymphoma survival and social support with the BYU Simmons Center, which they published on social media in February 2021.
His willingness to share his experience is why Francis was approached by a Bateman team at BYU. The Bateman Case Study Competition, run by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), is an opportunity to apply classroom education and internship experiences to create and implement a full public relations (PR) campaign for an actual client. This year, the client is the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
The team, led by faculty advisor Dr. Ken Plowman, includes PR students Bella Hwang, Ellie Glade, Joshua Taylor, Madeline Almeida, and Mikayla Smith. “We were really inspired by his story and thought [Francis] would be able to bring awareness to a lot of students,” says Hwang.
Public relations, similarly to public health, is about creating change within communities. Armed with its own practices and standards, the PR industry works to improve societies through fully-researched campaigns in an ethical manner.
Glade says, “Our campaign is exactly what public health aims to do. We are trying to educate people to check for symptoms [of lymphoma] in themselves and in their children. . . . Raising awareness of the Lymphoma Research Foundation in itself is helping people to know that there are foundations out there that are doing really cool, groundbreaking things.” The mission of the Lymphoma Research Foundation is to eradicate lymphoma and serve those impacted by this blood cancer. The foundation believes that in order to catch it early, the public must be educated on the symptoms.
A cancer diagnosis can be discouraging. Francis wants everyone to know that there are many great programs like the Lymphoma Research Foundation that provide resources for the cancer community. Francis advises to keep hope in hard times and focus on what you can control instead of what you cannot.
“I remember having conversations with my parents and now-wife Celeste about letting go of things that were out of my control and to instead focus on what I could do. [I started to] preserve my mental health, strengthen the relationships in my life. . . . I had to figure out what was important and what wasn’t important. That’s probably the most valuable thing that I have learned from my experience [as a lymphoma survivor].”