BBC podcast presenter Deborah James, who has stage four bowel cancer, has revealed her chemotherapy is working after she suffered the ‘hardest three months’ of her life.
The former deputy head teacher and cancer campaigner from London, a mother-of-two, has been living with stage four bowel cancer since she was diagnosed in December 2016, and was told early on that she might not live beyond five years.
Earlier this summer, she was told she had an aggressive new tumour near her liver that had wrapped itself around her bile duct – requiring a life-saving stay in hospital.
But posting on Instagram last night, she indicated her battle with the disease had turned a corner, revealing: ‘MY CHEMO IS WORKING! Words, I wanted to hear, but didn’t allow myself to think might happen.’
BBC podcast presenter Deborah James, who has stage four bowel cancer, has revealed her chemotherapy is working after she suffered the ‘hardest three months’ of her life
She continued: ‘I think I’ve been preparing for the worst actually. I have to say waiting for these scan results has been incredibly hard. In my head I’ve gone to hell and back.
‘These are the first scans since my previous drugs stopped working, my liver packed up, and I got sepsis.
‘We started me back on what was my first line “nuclear chemo” and it’s fair to say it’s floored me.
‘Despite the snippets of smiles and glam dresses I choose to share here (because they are the moments in my day that make me smile), behind closed doors this has been the hardest 3 months since my diagnosis physically (and mentally).’
Earlier this summer, she was told she had an aggressive new tumour near her liver that had wrapped itself around her bile duct – requiring a life-saving stay in hospital
In an emotional Instagram post shared last night by the podcast host, she said she had felt ‘floored’ by
She revealed doctors have said she is ‘stable’, adding: ‘ Essentially the cancer that was rapidly growing and causing my liver to fail, has been halted at least temporarily.
‘And my lymnodes are even shrinking! Am I cured? No. Will I ever be – No. Do I still have active cancer – sadly yes. But this buys me more time. At least until my next scan!’
Adding she is ‘on her knees’ after having intensive chemotherapy for years, she said: ‘I’m of course over the moon by this news, and know how close I am to have receiving the other side of the coin.
‘But it hasn’t really sunk in because I’ve had my head down the loo for the last 3 days due to chemo and been asleep minus the fleeting windows of prancing you might see!’
BBC podcast presenter Deborah James, who has stage four bowel cancer, has shared snaps from her wild 40th birthday party after fearing it was a milestone she would never see (pictured left, with popstar Sophie Ellis-Bextor who performed at the event)
She finished the post by writing: ‘But cheers to the blessing of another day, another chance, more options, and more life I didn’t think I’d see! One day at a time!’
It comes weeks after Deborah celebrated her 40th birthday after fearing it was a milestone she would never see.
Posting on Instagram, she wrote she had initially planned a ‘low key’ dinner and dance party for her closest friends and family last week, adding: ‘I’m still blown away by reaching 40, but I really wasn’t sure if I’d cope with anything too crazy.’
Snaps shared on Deborah’s social media showed her house decorated with a huge array of balloons, with her friends and family sitting down for a candle-lit dinner before the party.
Later she shared clips as she performed a speech which she said she had ‘written in the bathroom on her phone’ before the event.
Snaps shared on Deborah’s social media showed her house decorated with a huge array of balloons, with her friends and family sitting down for a candle-lit dinner before the party
Last month, James urged people to see a doctor if they felt something wasn’t right following the death from breast cancer of Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding.
She said: ‘It’s not putting the blame back, I’ve personally beaten myself up about regretting not getting to the GP earlier.’
Sarah passed away on September 5th, just 13 months after confirming her terminal cancer diagnosis. Her death was announced by her devastated family on social media.
Speaking about Sarah’s death, James said it was ‘hard-hitting’, adding: ‘It’s not just breast cancer, it’s knowing our body and understanding the difference between early and late diagnosis.
‘It’s tragic it takes these kind of headlines to remind us that none of us are exempt from the one in two of us who will get cancer in our lifetime.
The social media star has documented her battle with cancer online since being diagnosed and campaigned for better awareness around bowel cancer diagnosis
‘It’s not about scaremongering. It’s about if you’re sat at home right now, you need to know your body and get it checked out sooner rather than later.’
She said she could relate to Sarah’s fears about being diagnosed, saying: ‘I live with incurable bowel cancer and I put off my own diagnosis with bowel cancer.
‘You assume at that age you’re too young to be diagnosed. By the time I was, I had late stage bowel cancer.’
She explained: ‘I’m very grateful to be approaching five years, but I know that I’m smashing every statistic to do that.
‘The key message is actually cancer is survivable. More people will strive 10 years after they are diagnosed with cancer then die from it, but that’s because of where we’re moving in terms of catching things early.
‘The first step in doing that is for people sat at home is to recognise it has to start with them and we have to come forward.
She praised her husband, Sebastien Bowen, for ‘keeping the family together’, posting a picture of the couple at Queen’s tennis tournament in West London in early summer
‘It’s not putting the blame back, I’ve personally beaten myself up about regretting not getting to the GP earlier.
‘But I think if you’re one of those people who is a little bit concerned, it’s knowing, it’s scarily the longer we leave it rather than getting it sorted straight away.’
Deborah has been documenting her battle with cancer online since diagnosis, including revealing how her mother, known as @bowelgran on Instagram, had been helping her cope while her family were away on holiday this summer.
Posting on Twitter, she wrote: ‘[Mum] has literally been nursing me back to life for the last month through liver failure and sepsis. #stayingalive.’
Posting the clip, she said: ‘Chemo dancing whilst hooked up to life saving drugs is on! This cycle, kids are away, so mum has stepped up!’
Performing a brief chereographed routine to Staying Alive, she added: ‘Song couldn’t be more apt! Cancer is still happening!’
Deborah, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, told her followers earlier this year that scan results had shown: ‘Things have moved (in the wrong direction) very quickly’
In August, the cancer campaigner had a liver stunt fitted to allow her to have further chemotherapy.
She shared a photo of herself with husband Sebastien at the Queen’s tennis tournament in West London, saying: ‘I think you all know, by my general lack of being on here (dancing!), that things have moved (in the wrong direction) very quickly cancer wise.’
Deborah praised her ‘superman’ husband, Sebastien Bowen, for ‘keeping the family together’ during a ‘crazy a** scary week’. She has two children with the French banker, Hugo and Eloise.
The upbeat presenter added: ‘I do have a glimmer of hope and options and am greatful to my team who are currently pulling a “next step” plan together that doesn’t including writing me off just yet!’
Revealing she’d endured many tests and scans in recent days, Deborah said she’d ‘earnt a hell of a lot of brownie points for the amount of time I’ve spent on scanners and having tests this week’.
She added that: ‘Whilst it goes without saying that I’ve felt at rock bottom, I’m not giving up hope just yet.’
The mother-of-two finished the post by saying she was ‘taking the weekend to snuggle up with my family so you won’t see me on here, and I urge you to do the same.’
Last year, Deborah began taking new experimental drugs as part of a trial after her oncology team gave her the green light to do so.
In April, James shared that her cancer, which has been kept at bay by pioneering treatment, was back again and she was forced to endure a 12th operation.
In the spring, James launched ITV’s Lorraine’s ‘No Butts’ campaign, designed to get people talking about the illness’s main symptoms, revealed how she recently asked her oncologist whether this was the ‘beginning of the end’ following her most recent results.
She has frequently said that as a vegetarian runner, she was the last person doctors expected to get the disease.
HOW DEPUTY HEAD TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA STAR HAS TRANSFORMED BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS
In 2018, Deborah (left) joined Lauren Mahon (front) and Rachael Bland (right) to present the award-winning podcast You, Me and the Big C on Radio 5 Live. Bland tragically died of breast cancer on September 5th that year; her husband Steve Bland now co-presents the show
- In December 2016, the West London mother-of-two, a deputy head, was diagnosed ‘late’ with incurable bowel cancer
- After sharing her experiences on living with the disease on social media, Deborah became known as the ‘Bowel Babe’
- In 2018, she became one of three presenters on Radio 5 Live’s You, Me and the Big C, which was conceived by her late co-host Rachael Bland
- On September 5th 2018, Welsh journalist and presenter Bland, diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, died at the age of 40
- Deborah and her co-host Lauren Mahon continue to present the show, with Steve Bland, Rachael’s husband, joining the duo
- On social media and in her column for the Sun newspaper, Deborah has documented the many chemo, radiotherapy sessions and surgery she’s had since
Last week, Deborah told followers on Instagram ‘By my general lack of being on here (dancing!), that Things have moved (in the wrong direction) very quickly cancer wise.’ Pictured: Deborah James undergoing a scan at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London
- In 2019, she had a procedure known as CyberKnife, a highly targeted form of radiotherapy to attack an inoperable lymph node close to her liver
- The pandemic’s impact on cancer services saw her campaign for care to continue as normal and, earlier this year, she launched the ITV’s Lorraine’s ‘No Butts’ campaign, raising awareness on bowel cancer symptoms
- Since last year, she has been taking new experimental drugs as part of a trial after her oncology team gave her the green light to do so
- August, Deborah revealed that scans she’s had in recent days have revealed her cancer has gone in the ‘wrong direction very quickly’
- She told followers she would be taking a break on social media over the weekend to ‘snuggle’ with her family ahead of more scans
- The mother-of-two said a new ‘rapidly-growing’ tumour near her liver had wrapped itself around her bowel
- Deborah must now start chemotherapy again after her cancer stopped responding to the drugs she’s currently on
- On October 1, Deborah celebrates her 40th birthday
The surgery was a success and her cancer became inactive. But while Deborah continued undergoing daily targeted drug therapy to keep the cancer at bay, she told how just as lockdown restrictions in the UK started easing, her cancer ‘wanted in on the party’ and started waking up.
Deborah, who says that as a stage 4 cancer patient all she wants is ‘hope and options,’ added that the node is inoperable and that her body is unable to cope with any more radiotherapy in that area.
However, with an oncologist confirming Deborah’s cancer is spreading to ‘limited sites’ in a ‘specific way,’ local therapies – including a mix of CyberKnife and ablation – have so far had positive outcomes.
Deborah has also undergone a new type of ablation known as NanoKnife – an ablation procedure that uses low energy electrical pulses to create defects in cell membranes, resulting in loss of homeostasis and subsequent cell death.
BOWEL CANCER: THE SYMPTOMS YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE
Bowel, or colorectal, cancer affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.
Such tumours usually develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.
- Bleeding from the bottom
- Blood in stools
- A change in bowel habits lasting at least three weeks
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme, unexplained tiredness
- Abdominal pain
Most cases have no clear cause, however, people are more at risk if they:
- Are over 50
- Have a family history of the condition
- Have a personal history of polyps in their bowel
- Suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease
- Lead an unhealthy lifestyle
Treatment usually involves surgery, and chemo- and radiotherapy.
More than nine out of 10 people with stage one bowel cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.
This drops significantly if it is diagnosed in later stages.
According to Bowel Cancer UK figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
It affects around 40 per 100,000 adults per year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.