Deborah James's bowel cancer battle in her own words05/10/2022
Deborah James’s bowel cancer battle in her own words: BBC podcaster shared ‘regret’ over not seeking help sooner, told her children ‘I love you forever’ when she almost died at home and only ever wanted ‘hope and options’
- BBC podcast host Deborah James, 40, shared a ‘goodbye’ message last night
- She’s been living with stage four bowel cancer since she was diagnosed in 2016
- At the start of the year, she announced she had ‘nearly died’ in hospital
BBC podcast host Deborah James shared a heartbreaking ‘goodbye’ message last night after moving to hospice at home care with her family.
The former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner, 40, from London, 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 – a milestone that passed in the autumn of 2021.
At the start of the year, the mother-of-two, who shares her children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, with her husband Sebastien, announced she had ‘nearly died’ in hospital when she ‘thought she wouldn’t get through the night’ after a varicose vein bleed.
She shared an Instagram post yesterday evening saying ‘nobody knows how long she has left’, writing: ‘The message I never wanted to write. We have tried everything, but my body simply isn’t playing ball.
‘My active care has stopped and I am now moved to hospice at home care, with my incredible family all around me and the focus is on making sure I’m not in pain and spending time with them.’
Deborah, who became one of three presenters on Radio 5 Live’s You, Me and the Big C in 2018, continued: ‘Nobody knows how long I’ve got left but I’m not able to walk, I’m sleeping most of the days, and most things I took for granted are pipe dreams.
‘I know we have left no stone unturned. But even with all the innovative cancer drugs in the world or some magic new breakthrough, my body just can’t continue anymore.’
Here, FEMAIL takes a look back at Deborah’s battle with bowel cancer, which she ‘courageously’ documented online…
BBC podcast host Deborah James shared a heartbreaking ‘goodbye’ message last night after moving to hospice at home care with her family (pictured with her children)
December 15 2016: Deborah is diagnosed with bowel cancer
‘If only for once someone believed me earlier that I wasn’t “crying wolf” – when in my normal nervous GP “question time” I tell the doctor I think I have bowel cancer – I’m actually laughed at – not once but three times over the course of six months,’ Deborah wrote for Bowel Cancer UK.
‘Fed up with waiting for a referral, I’m lucky I was able to take myself off privately to have a colonoscopy.
‘I was blind-sided at 7pm on Thursday 15 December 2016… [and] here I stand after my world turned upside down with the words “you have cancer” thinking at first that it was stage 3 and totally curable “hiccup” in my life, to being faced with the harsh reality of being 35 and having to face stage 4 bowel cancer head on.’
March 20 2019: She pays her first ‘nerve-wracking’ visit to a hospice
Deborah visited the Royal Trinity Hospice, in clips recorded for BBC Breakfast, and said: ‘Six months ago I wouldn’t have even had a conversation about going to a a hospice’
Deborah visited the Royal Trinity Hospice, in clips recorded for BBC Breakfast, and said: ‘Six months ago I wouldn’t have even had a conversation about going to a a hospice.
‘I have two young children, aged nine and aged 11… only 8 per cent of people will survive with my type of cancer, so I have to ask myself the question – how will I die and how do I want to die?
‘For me the home is a sacred place that I want to protect for my children and I want them to have these happy memories of home. I don’t want them to remember me dying at home.
‘Anyone who has followed my story will know that the thought of stepping into a hospice was a huge deal for me. Something I didn’t want to even discuss.
‘But through our podcast I’ve realised that talking about things and facing them head on makes it all a little less scary. So I decided to visit.’
March 28 2019: Her illness is declared stable
‘STABLE! It’s the magic words anyone with metastatic cancer wants to hear (minus a miracle!),’ she wrote on Instagram (above)
‘STABLE! It’s the magic words anyone with metastatic cancer wants to hear (minus a miracle!),’ she wrote on Instagram.
‘This week I’ve been under going a series of tests (think scan anxiety at the max) to determine if my new drugs are pulling their weight. And I’m over the moon to say they are!’
Deborah used a driving metaphor to describe how having cancer makes her feel.
She said: ‘When my cancer is on the march, we are zooming along the motorway in the fast lane – you can’t turn off!’
Continuing the analogy, she wrote: ‘Right now we are at a Red light. The engine is off. We don’t know for how long.’
Deborah also revealed that she’s had a difficult time in recent months, saying: ‘I look back at December to February where I was actually very unwell, skin rashes and fevers and I crawled into the @RoyalMarsden to see my oncology team saying I can’t do this.
‘With the right management, I’ve pulled through to this point (I honestly didn’t think I’d get through February!) and I cannot tell you what hope it gives me. We were about to give up on it! But I’d do it all and then some to have the options I now have!’
January 14 2020: She reveals she’s currently free of cancer – and says doctors have told her she’s ‘rewriting the text book’
Posting a defiant photo of herself on a beach in Mauritius, Deborah wrote on Instagram: ‘Ok Cancer – you chose the wrong girl’
‘3 Years on, 10 operations, too many scans, a lot of chemo, some fancy drugs, lots of tears… I’m still standing – and you (according to my most recent scans!) are still sleeping,’ she added in her post, above
Posting a defiant photo of herself on a beach in Mauritius, Deborah wrote on Instagram: ‘Ok Cancer – you chose the wrong girl.
‘3 Years on, 10 operations, too many scans, a lot of chemo, some fancy drugs, lots of tears… I’m still standing – and you (according to my most recent scans!) are still sleeping!
‘In fact, we have cut you out, burnt you, zapped you, ablated you, used radiotherapy, used targeted therapy, used every tool in the book and right now in fact according to my team we are “rewriting the text book!”.
It’s a bit bonkers (and I haven’t honestly processed this for a few reasons), but right now, I have no evidence of cancer in my body!! Which seems bonkers considering at one stage I had 15 tumours!
‘And the stats (8% survival at 5 years for metastatic Bowel Cancer) are against us. Yes I’m beyond happy. Have I celebrated. No! (I should!) BUT I’m realistic. Yes I’m in a place I never thought possible.
‘But I’ve been here once before a few years ago and it was whipped away from me 6 weeks later! So I’m prepared. We all are. I’m still on treatment (tomorrow in fact!). Praying it continues to work.
‘Being beyond grateful to be here today… still taking it one step at a time. Maybe one day I’ll do slightly larger steps and start looking beyond the next 2 weeks! I hope…in the meantime I’ll just keep “living”.’
February 26 2020: Deborah reveals she had been facing divorce when she received her bombshell diagnosis
Deborah James and her husband Sebastien Bowen in April 2019. They had just decided to retry their relationship after almost divorcing when Deborah was diagnosed
Before her diagnosis, Deborah was an ambitious deputy head teacher who’d been brought in to turn around a failing comprehensive in Surrey. She also had two young children to bring up.
It meant she and her banker husband of nearly 12 years, Sebastien, were always stressed and barely saw each other. ‘It was a classic case of our marriage coming last,’ she says.
Sebastien moved out in 2015 and they embarked on an initially ‘acrimonious’ divorce, both hiring lawyers and starting to see other people. Deborah even went on some ‘hideous’ Tinder dates.
They’d already had the decree nisi when they agreed to counselling, not with any hope of a reconciliation, but simply to be on more cordial terms for the children.
Then, to Deborah’s astonishment, the pair began having drinks, then dinner, after the sessions.
In November 2016, they made ‘a big step’ and got back together, only for Deborah to receive her shock diagnosis soon after.
‘One of the good things about cancer is it makes you reassess your relationship. It’s crunch time. You think: “Do I really want to be with this person?” And if you don’t, then it’s “Bye!” as life really is short.
‘But cancer can also make you realise how special your connection is, and that’s where we are: in a good place,’ she told The Daily Mail.
May 5 2020: She reveals she’s had to have a new tumour ‘marker’ zapped
Deborah pictured returning after undergoing standard radiotherapy in May 2020
In May 2020, she revealed she had been undergoing radiotherapy to ‘zap’ new tumour markers – after previous tumours were ‘put to sleep’ last year.
Deborah said that her treatment had been complicated by lockdown, saying: ‘Cancer in the time of Covid – it’s complicated! Shall we just call this a little blip in the road?! I’ll be spending a bit of time here for the foreseeable future.’
She added that her markers were now normal once more but added: I’m not going to lie – it’s been a worry. Still is a worry as decision aren’t as straight forward in this climate.
‘I’ve just had my first radiotherapy. The first time I’ve had standard radiotherapy. I’m still shaking a little bit. Any new experience is a little bit scary and it’s too early to know what my side effects are.’
April 26 2021: She reveals her cancer is back again
Writing in Fabulous, Deborah explained that her cancer was back again, adding: ‘The results aren’t a s*** show. The good news is my liver, lungs, bowel and chest are all clear.
‘But my cancer has a habit of being awkward and it’s thrown me another challenge, a roadblock we need to navigate around.’
She went on to explain that three years ago she underwent a procedure known as CyberKnife – a highly targeted form of radiotherapy which targeted an inoperable lymph node close to her liver.
The surgery was a success and the 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.
June 22 2021: She has a stent fitted in her failing liver after revealing she has a ‘rapidly-growing tumour’
‘Update! I never liked rollercoasters, but I seem to be riding the hideous cancer one whether I like it or not,’ Deborah wrote online, alongside the above picture. ‘To cut a long story short, my drugs have stopped working and my liver is failing. But I’ve been given hope.
‘Update! I never liked rollercoasters, but I seem to be riding the hideous cancer one whether I like it or not,’ she wrote online. ‘To cut a long story short, my drugs have stopped working and my liver is failing. But I’ve been given hope.
‘Today I had a stent fitted to my bile duct, in order to hope that my liver can function again and that I can then have more chemo.
‘I was transferred via ambulance to St Helier Hospital to have the procedure by a team of awesome doctors, who managed to get it in how they wanted, and now we just need my liver to play ball!
‘I can’t actually tell you anything about what happened, because I was given such a wacking dose of sedation, I’m still coming round and recovering and being monitored in hospital.
‘So whilst I feel like I’m back to square one and yes its a pretty scary, I’m taking it one step at a time, grateful to have hope and options. As my oncologist said, don’t write me off yet!’
Writing in her column in The Sun about the procedure, she said the stent ‘should’ stop her liver from failing and might work for between three to six months.
Revealing scans detected a new ‘rapidly-growing’ tumour, she wrote: ‘If my liver plays ball, I can have chemo again. If that works, it might shrink the tumour enough to stop it obstructing my bile duct.
‘The truth is it never really went away. It went to sleep for a bit, but now it’s back again and this time, my drugs aren’t working.’
July 2021: Her mother ‘nurses her back to life’ for a month after she suffered liver failure and sepsis
In a tweet, Deborah posted a video as she danced in the garden with her mother Heather James wearing matching outfits
She wrote on Twitter: ‘[Mum] has literally been nursing me back to life for the last month through liver failure and sepsis. #stayingalive.’
Posting a clip of her dancing with her mother, 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 choreographed routine to Staying Alive, she added: ‘Song couldn’t be more apt! Cancer is still happening!’
September 3 2021: She says it feels surreal as she sees her children off to their new secondary schools
Deborah said it felt surreal after she saw her children off to their new secondary schools (pictured)
Sharing an image of her and her children from their first day of school in 2021, and another from four years before (pictured), she wrote on Instagram: ‘Hope. Like thousands of us – I’m seeing my kids off to their new secondary schools over these last few days.’
‘Proud, a little tearful and with sore thumbs from labelling too many things! The emotion coming from this moment is surreal. It’s always been one of those MASSIVE pipe dream milestones I never envisaged I’d actually make,’ she added in the post (pictured)
Sharing an image of her and her children from their first day of school in 2021, and another from four years before, she wrote on Instagram: ‘Hope. Like thousands of us – I’m seeing my kids off to their new secondary schools over these last few days.
‘Proud, a little tearful and with sore thumbs from labelling too many things! The emotion coming from this moment is surreal. It’s always been one of those MASSIVE pipe dream milestones I never envisaged I’d actually make!
‘Because there wasn’t a statistic that say I would!! I always had hope I would, but recent progressive and hairy cancer moments meant it all seemed too much to dream it even at the start of the summer.
‘But I’m here – just smiling with unbelievable pride at the children who are my world. Wishing them all the luck in their new adventures as I continue to enjoy the privilege of each day I have being here to see it unfold.
‘The second picture was us 4 years ago. They were half their current size! I was on the same chemo regime I am now, it was my first “back to school with cancer”, having been diagnosed 9 months earlier. I thought it would be my last.
‘I was too sad, it was all too much, and I look at my eyes now in that picture and see the pain and the heartbreak behind the heaviness of that feeling. I couldn’t stop the tears.
‘Perhaps you are there today? Perhaps you are me 4 years ago. If you are, I’m sending you love. A lot of it. Have faith in taking things one step at a time. For Today I’m beaming – and you will too. (And yes there will be tears of joy!).’
September 6 2021: She says she regrets not seeking help earlier in ongoing cancer battle
Appearing on BBC News to discuss Girl’s Aloud singer Sarah Harding ‘s death following her terminal cancer diagnosis, Deborah (pictured) urged those at home to go to the doctor if they felt something wasn’t right
Appearing on BBC News to discuss Girl’s Aloud singer Sarah Harding’s death following her terminal cancer diagnosis, Deborah urged those at home to go to the doctor if they felt something wasn’t right.
She said: ‘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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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 survive 10 years after they are diagnosed with cancer than 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 to recognise it has to start with them and we have to come forward.
‘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.’
October 1 to October 5 2021: Deborah celebrates her 40th birthday
The BBC podcast presenter shared snaps from her wild 40th birthday party after fearing it was a milestone she would never see (pictured with popstar Sophie Ellis-Bextor who performed at the event)
Popstar Sophie performed at the birthday event for Deborah in a room decorated with huge gold and white balloons
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.
‘But then I didn’t want to regret doing nothing! So at the very last minute I pulled a party out of the bag, and then Sophie Ellis-Bextor put the cherry on the cake by staying true to her word (when we recorded her spinning plates podcast a few months back), and turned up to sing! From her kitchen disco to mine!
‘Blown away by kindness and love. My aim was to last until midnight and not to vomit or cry! (Achieved!).
‘I was still dancing at 3am, (I can’t recall when I last did that!), and it’s fair to say I haven’t got dressed all day today!
‘I will now be taking it easy! But I’ve concluded I’m not really sure “low key” features in my vocabulary!! Totally worth it!’
October 18 2021: She reveals her chemotherapy is working
‘MY CHEMO IS WORKING! Words, I wanted to hear, but didn’t allow myself to think might happen,’ she penned online (pictured)
‘MY CHEMO IS WORKING! Words, I wanted to hear, but didn’t allow myself to think might happen,’ she penned online.
‘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).’
She revealed doctors have said she was ‘stable’, adding: ‘ Essentially the cancer that was rapidly growing and causing my liver to fail, has been halted at least temporarily.
‘And my lymph nodes 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 was ‘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!’
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!’
October 20 2021: She is rushed to A&E with ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’
Deborah revealed how she was rushed to A&E after experiencing ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’ in October (pictured)
‘Not how I want to start a Wednesday! Had to go to A&E, was spiking 40 degree temperatures and was so dehydrated from not being able to keep anything in me,’ she wrote on Instagram.
‘Have spent the last 8 hours being pumped full of antibiotics and fluids – lots of fluids! Feeling better already! Hope this is a fly by visit!’
November 2021: She reveals she is unable to walk for more than 20 minutes and remains ‘very weak’
Posting a snap on Instagram as she visited Kew Gardens, Deborah revealed she had used a wheelchair to navigate the park
She said in her post (pictured): ‘Standing here at Kew Gardens to see in another festive time, is always a privilege’
Posting a snap on Instagram as she visited Kew Gardens, Deborah revealed she had used a wheelchair to navigate the park, adding: ‘There’s always mixed emotions for me. Will I be here next year, reflections on the what ifs etc.’
She said: ‘Standing here at Kew Gardens to see in another festive time, is always a privilege.
‘Got a sneak peek tonight at Christmas at Kew which I attend every year – its utterly wonderful and yet again doesn’t disappoint. Kew is one of my magical places in my life (my husband proposed to me here many years ago).
‘This time last year I struggled because I had only just had my lungs cut open yet again! (All the memories came flooding back!) – but this year however I had to get some help going round the trail and borrowed a wheelchair.
‘Something I found really difficult to face up to. I wanted to walk it all and tried at first albeit with a trusty stick, but being honest with myself, having not walked beyond 20 minutes in the last month and still very weak trying to get on top of learning to eat and digest food again, I had to just accept I’m in recovery from a pretty harsh medical setback and I’m doing the best I can.
‘Just got to keep building, little by little. Bring on the early Christmas magic, because quite frankly the festive vibes are giving me all the smiles at the moment.’
December 2021: Deborah admits she was ‘not sure what her options were’ after her liver stent ‘stopped working’
Deborah (pictured) was told in the summer of 2021 that she had an aggressive new tumour that had wrapped itself around her bile duct – requiring a life-saving stay in hospital – and a stent fitted to stop her liver from failing
Deborah was told in the summer of 2021 that she had an aggressive new tumour that had wrapped itself around her bile duct – requiring a life-saving stay in hospital – and a stent fitted to stop her liver from failing.
However posting on Instagram in December, she said she felt she was ‘on a London hospital tour’, and explained how the stent ‘stopped working’.
She explained having a ‘quick replacement operation’ had turned into a ‘nightmare’, adding: ‘I’m now at the mercy of hopefully some super ‘magic medicine miracle’ – but then I always have been, and any chance is a chance right? All I ever say Is all I want is hope and options.’
She wrote online: ‘Plan B bile stent operation wasn’t an option either, so I’m now back to the Marsden asap to look at Plan C! Or D or Z if there is one!
‘Just to clarify – about 6 months ago I needed a bile stent to keep my liver draining.
‘Despite feeling actually the best I have done in a while, we could see this was beginning to stop working (as they often do), but unfortunately what was supposed to be a quick replacement operation turned into a nightmare.
‘Mainly due to cancer changes in that area, meaning it’s no longer straight forward to just get my plumbing working! So I now have no stent, and desperately need some out of the box quick thinking!
‘At about 4pm today I really thought all hope was lost, but luckily a few chats later with my oncologist, and just talking through what pathways we can try is all I need.
‘To be given a realistic glimmer of them is enough to help me keep the faith. So I’m not sure what my next steps look like, but as always it’s one at a time.
‘It’s all rather ironic that on this same night, five years ago I was desperately wondering how I’d put one foot in front of another when I heard the words “you have cancer”.
‘If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over five years – its that somehow you can keep walking, even when it’s scary, but you must always keep the faith.’
January 2022: She reveals she ‘nearly died’ in an ‘acute medical emergency’ and says it’s been the ‘most heartbreaking and scariest’ part of her 5-year cancer battle
Deborah revealed how she ‘nearly died’ in January in an ‘acute medical emergency’. She shared this photo from hospital
Posting on Instagram , the mother-of-two spoke of enduring the ‘hardest, most heartbreaking and scariest’ period of her cancer battle, which involved three operations and ‘a lot more procedures’ to come
‘A week ago at this time in the evening I nearly died in what was an acute medical emergency,’ she wrote on Instagram.
‘I’m not ready to discuss what happened yet as the trauma of it all has been incredibly intense – but it’s thanks to an unbelievable team of NHS specialists who worked all through the night and the next day to save me.
‘I cannot be more grateful. I’m still not out of danger and I have a lot more procedures to deal with. But I’m now out of intensive care. And for the first time felt able to briefly update you.’
Sharing a photo of her giving a thumbs up from a hospital bed, she continued: ‘This is me yesterday having just come round from my 3rd operation this week. I have another operation tomorrow.
‘In 5 years of having stage 4 Cancer – this has been the hardest, most heartbreaking and scariest of them all. I’d always prepared for my death, but I wasn’t prepared for something so blindsiding and traumatic to happen.
‘I can’t quite believe I’m here to write this. A week ago my whole family was praying I’d pull through the night. I’m getting a lot of help and support to come to terms with the trauma I’ve been through.
‘My family have been incredible. I don’t know how my husband held it together seeing me crash as an army of doctors stabilised me in resus.’
After thanking followers for their support, she added: ‘Do me a favour and go tell your loved ones how much you love them. To realise in a sudden split moment that you are unlikely to see the next day is utterly heartbreaking. Have no regrets.’
January 24 2022: Deborah returns home from hospital after three weeks
Deborah revealed on Instagram that she had been discharged as an in-patient after three weeks in hospital (pictured)
Taking to Instagram (above), she admitted that it had been ‘the scariest period’ of her life
Deborah revealed on Instagram that she had been discharged as an in-patient after three weeks in hospital, and said it had been ‘the scariest period’ of her life, adding: ‘Two and a half weeks ago it was touch and go if I made it through the night.
‘Today after 18 days across two hospitals I walked down the steps of the @royalmarsden discharged from life as an in-patient.
‘I’m not out of the woods yet, and I’ll be back in soon, but I’ve reach a point that seemed insurmountable weeks ago. I cried on my last IV treatment today. The trauma of it all is very raw and real. I’m realising I’ve been through a lot.
‘A lot of everything – seeing my life slip away, being brought back to life, hairy moments, operations, general anaesthesia, antibiotics, pain relief, nervously awaiting blood tests, failured canulars, curve balls, tears.
‘It’s been the scariest time of my life – of my whole families lives. I don’t even know where to begin to thank every single medical person who saved me, who got me through the days, the nights, who did all they can to give me more time. Thank you doesn’t even touch the sides.
‘I’m unsure right now of my next steps, but I have options. And I have to recover first. Get some normality, see the outside world! Eat!
‘But right now, I’m back home, a place I left not thinking I’d see it again. For that, I feel beyond greatful.’
February 10: Deborah shares on her podcast heartbreaking voice notes recorded in hospital after she almost died last month
Deborah explained on the podcast she recorded the notes five days after the emergency to comfort herself while staying alone at the Marsden due to Covid regulations
She explained on the podcast she recorded the notes five days after the emergency to comfort herself while staying alone at the Marsden due to Covid regulations.
‘I don’t know how to process what’s happened. I am in shock. Every time I close my eyes I cry, I can’t bear to be alone,’ she was heard saying in one of the notes.
‘The one thing I need is not to be alone however because of Covid, I’m alone and I am scared. The nurses are looking after me but we know my situation.
‘I wake up screaming for help and my fear is that no one is coming to help me. I’m scared to go to sleep because I’m scared I might not wake up.
‘I’m scared to cough, in case I bleed, I’m scared of eating in case I bleed. I have anxiety, but this is a different level altogether in terms of trauma and I think I know it will get easier, and I know that I got support in place to help me with that.
‘But I think I just wanted to share how traumatically hard it is to go trough trauma. I’m going through it right now and I think in these times where Covid is around as well, it’s even harder because the one thing that you need is the one thing you can’t have.’
Starting the podcast, Deborah explained she felt the need to record the notes to make sense of what had been ‘the most traumatic event of my life.’
‘I might help myself get through this very, very dark time,’ she added, saying: ‘You have to hold with me if I start crying at any point. It’s been hard, I have to say.
‘In fact the last week has been the hardest that I ever gone through in five years since my cancer diagnosis,’ she admitted.
The mother-of-two said she’s always known that her cancer would catch up with her, and said that she believed she’d die after running out of treatment options, but had never imagined a dramatic medical emergency would end her live.
She said she started to feel ill around 6pm on Thursday 6 January. ‘I instantly was overcome with wanting to vomit. And this is where my entire life changed in front of me.
‘I unfortunately started hemorrhaging within the next five minutes. I was vomiting large volumes of blood,’ she said, adding she was told she had vomited 1.5l of blood in total.
‘Within 30 seconds I knew that I had to get to a hospital quick and i was losing consciousness, the first thing i did was call my husband who was at the local physiotherapist.;
The mother-of-two’s voice broke as she recalled being discovered by her 12-year-old daughter.
‘My daughter, she came up and found me basically with blood everywhere and I knew that I couldn’t wait event for my husband to come back I knew I needed to get help immediately.
Deborah said she was the most ‘hideous’ experience with a 999 operator who told her there was a 30 minutes delay in ambulances.
‘My husband found me with Eloise screaming down the phone saying “you have to help my mummy” because I was unable to articulate things anymore and the only response that we got was “do you still want an ambulance, there will be 30 minute delay on it. We understand that you are worried but we cant get anybody to you sooner”,’ she recalled.
Writing in her column for The Sun this week, Deborah explained that it felt as though they were ‘leaving her for dead’, and had her husband not been there, she doesn’t think she would be alive.
Eventually, Deborah’s husband drove her to the A&E at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where she was told she would not have survived if she had waited for an ambulance to arrive.
‘I just thought I’ve got a minute left in me before I go unconscious” and I came down the stair and shouted to my children “I love you, I love you. I love you forever,” and I thought I wouldn’t never see them again,’ she said, with tears in her voice.
During the journey, she somehow managed to give Nico Fotiadis a call, her interventional radiologist who was set and ready to do her operation, lined up for the next day. He made his way over from the Royal Marsden Hospital.
Nico arrived to tell Deborah, along with the lead doctor, to say they believed that either her portal vein had ruptured or her oesophagal varices had haemorrhaged. She later found out the both were true.
The 40-year-old podcaster spent four days in critical care, then two weeks as an in-patient to get back to normal, and get back to her cancer treatment.
March 14 2022: The mother-of-two is back in hospital as an in-patient after suffering from septic infection
The cancer campaigner shared an Instagram snap from a hospital bed, writing: ‘So I’m back in hospital as an in-patient. Not my idea of a fun weekend, but needs must!
‘Basically, to cut a long story short! The infection we’ve been trying to keep at bay with IV antibiotics – well it didn’t work,’ she added in another Instagram story (pictured)
The cancer campaigner shared an Instagram snap from a hospital bed, writing: ‘So I’m back in hospital as an in-patient. Not my idea of a fun weekend, but needs must!
‘Basically, to cut a long story short! The infection we’ve been trying to keep at bay with IV antibiotics – well it didn’t work!
‘And on Tuesday I became septic with 40 degree fevers and really unwell. But the team at the @royalmarsden have been incredible and I was admitted on Tuesday.
‘Since then we have found out I have a few sources of infection. So yesterday I had my port out. Gutted! Five years this baby has served me well – but right now I need it out to stop an infection – I was actually so sad! Can have another one soon.
‘We also found out that my main source of infection in my liver which we’ve known about – due to the iV antibiotics created an abscess – so it’s been drained for a few days to help it heal faster! But almost immediately improved my infection.’
‘So now I’m on a hardcore set of IV antibiotics – and can now almost text! Where I was so delirious with infection I couldn’t keep my eyes open!
‘The good news is this is fixable and my cancer is stable with the new regime. So just need to get this sorted! Sepsis infections are so scary until under control! I’m now finally not spiking and bloods show everything improving.’
March 28 2022: She reveals she spent Mother’s Day at home with her family after being given ‘day release’ from hospital
Deborah revealed she spent Mother’s Day with her family after being given ‘day release’ from hospital
‘Mother’s Day is a rollercoaster for too many for so many reasons, our family included,’ she wrote on Instagram.
‘So without over thinking it, for now, I’m just sooo thankful that the @royalmarsden arranged day release for me this weekend so I could see Hugo perform in a midsummers night dream and that I could spend the day with my whole family (minus Eloise who is surfing that is!).
‘And I may have walked the further yet when I was was sniffing out the harrods food halls (via the jewellery that it!). I clearly need to use retail therapy to rebuild my strength!
‘Thanks to my lovely nurses who were all on a mission to ensure I got to these things all safely and be able to navigate my drains under my dresses!
‘The only problem is, as cared for as I feel here, I didn’t want to come back! This week is all about having some procedures, like restarting my treatment, finishing my IV course for the sepsis, getting my varices rebanded and sorting my drains, and hoping not too much else!
‘So I know it’s all positive steps towards finally going home, just lots to face first! But at least I’ve have a good boost of “life” to remind me why it’s all worth it!
‘Big love to you, knowing how tough today has been for so many.’
April 1 2022: She concerns fans with snaps after suffering ‘a rough few days’
The BBC podcast host worried fans after sharing this snap to Instagram from her hospital bed
The mother-of-two revealed she had ‘a rough few days’ as she underwent a ‘good few procedures’
Posting a pictured of herself in hospital online, she wrote: ‘I’ve had a rough few days. A good few procedures including treatment, rebanding of my varices, drain changes, dealing with pain, and a million and one other things has really taken it out of me.
‘I’m just resting up and recovering from it all. Right now this for me Is Bowel cancer. And honestly It’s not fun in the slightest.
‘April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. Every 15 minutes somebody is diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK, that’s nearly 43,000 people each year. And sadly it’s the second largest cancer killer in the UK.
‘This month I’ll be sharing lots of information on the things you need to be looking for when it comes to all things bowel and guts.
‘But for now, please join me in sharing your bowel cancer story alongside @bowelcanceruk using the hashtag #thisisbowelcancer
‘Everyone affected by bowel cancer has their own unique story to tell. We can be such a strong and supportive community. One that helps each other through the good days and the bad days – the rollercoaster that is bowel cancer.
‘Whether you’re a patient, family member, friend, colleague, healthcare professional or researcher @bowelcanceruk want to bring the varied and many people affected by bowel cancer together this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to shine a light on your stories and experiences.’
April 14 2022: She tells fans she has been discharged from hospital but calls the situation ‘very tough’
In April, Deborah revealed she had been discharged after more than a month in hospital. Pictured, leaving the Royal Marsden Hospital
‘I’m aware I’ve been quiet on here recently but the last week especially has pushed me to use every ounce of energy to find the strength to get through each day and get home,’ she wrote on Instagram.
‘I’ve been in hospital for a month and 2 days, and I cannot tell you how hard it’s been, both mentally and physically to get through this. It’s pushed me to limits I didn’t think existed despite my previous stays.
‘Of course I’ll share with you why over the coming weeks. But for now I just wanted to say thank you for all the incredible messages, the kind and thoughtful gestures, the virtual hug of support that has blown me away since I’ve been in hospital.
‘I’ve got challenges ahead of me, like always, but for now I get the weekend with my family and that Is the best thing I could ever ask for.’
However things took a turn for the worse when Deborah got home and she had to be taken back into hospital for emergency scans and blood tests
‘I ended up in a lot of tears, a lot of pain on Monday,’ she said in an Instagram update.
She explained: ‘Plan for me is, as much as I want to escape the Marsden, it looks like I have to come in for daily IVs. Hopefully not on Easter Sunday but we’ll see.
‘My husband and my mum, my sister… People have been rallying around to bring me in each day. It’s what I need. I don’t really have a choice with that but I’m lucky to be able to do it as an out-patient rather than an in-patient.’
The cancer campaigner admitted she might have ‘underestimated’ the effects of sepsis on the body and said a full recovery can take a ‘really, really long time’.
‘I know there are people who take months and months to recover. I’m only five weeks into it and it’s small steps,’ she said. ‘I forget, I’ve made progress. I don’t think I’ll ever take for granted again being able to walk.
‘I’m having to learn how to walk from the car into the Marsden. I’m having to learn how to get dressed again.
‘Each time I have CTs it’s showing my cancer is still stable and still responding to the drugs. That’s what we want in this scenario. Even though it’s very tough. I’m not going to lie, I’m in a very tough scenario.’
April 27 2022: She tells Lorraine that she has spent ’80 per cent’ of the year in hospital and her ‘body is tired’
Deborah (above) admitted to Lorraine Kelly: ‘I don’t really know how I’m alive’ and that her ‘body is tired’ after spending ‘about 80 per cent of this year in hospital’
Speaking to host Lorraine Kelly for the “No Butts” campaign from Royal Marsden Hospital, where she had spent a month as an in-patient with sepsis, Deborah said: ‘I’m wearing makeup and I’ve brushed my hair, which in a weird way is progress, to be honest with you.
‘Three weeks ago, I couldn’t get myself out of bed to go to the toilet, I couldn’t stand up. A couple of times this year [you’ve nearly lost me]. If I’m being honest, I don’t really know how I’m alive. This year has been really crazy.
‘I’ve spent about 80 per cent of this year in hospital in some capacity. In January, I had a very scary experience where I had a varicose bleed. I thought that was it.
‘I can only now talk about it without crying. In a split second, I went from living to thinking that I wouldn’t get through the night. And none of my family did. My body is tired.
‘I have lived with bowel cancer for over five years, which is amazing. But had my cancer been caught early, I wouldn’t be living on a knife edge.
‘So for me, the “No Butts” campaign is all about just catching things early, because we know that when cancer is caught early, it’s really curable. We want people to not be embarrassed to talk about everything when it comes to poo.
‘I’m going to get through this and I’m going to do it in a way that I feel positive about it. I find wearing bright colours just makes you feel a little bit better.’
May 9 2022: Deborah announces she has moved to hospice care and posts ‘goodbye’ message on her Instagram page
In an emotional post shared to Instagram last night, Deborah said her body ‘was not playing ball’ and she was spending ‘most of the day sleeping’
The mother-of-two also announced the news she was launching a fund in her name in order to help others who were suffering from similar diseases
‘The message I never wanted to write. We have tried everything, but my body simply isn’t playing ball. My active care has stopped and I am now moved to hospice at home care, with my incredible family all around me and the focus is on making sure I’m not in pain and spending time with them,’ she wrote.
‘Nobody knows how long I’ve got left but I’m not able to walk, I’m sleeping most of the days, and most things I took for granted are pipe dreams. I know we have left no stone unturned. But even with all the innovative cancer drugs in the world or some magic new breakthrough, my body just can’t continue anymore.
‘In over 5 years of writing about how I thought it would be my final Christmas, how I wouldn’t see my 40th birthday nor see my kids go to secondary school – I never envisaged writing the one where I would actually say goodbye.
‘I think it’s been the rebellious hope in me.
‘But I don’t think anyone can say the last 6 months has exactly been kind! It’s all heartbreaking to be going through but I’m surrounded by so much love that if anything can help me through I hope that will.
‘I always knew there was one thing I always wanted to do before I died. I have always over the years raised as much awareness and money for the charities that are closest to me. @cr_uk @royalmarsden @bowelcanceruk
‘As a result, the @bowelbabefund is being established and I’d love nothing more than for you to help it flourish. Please visit bowelbabe.org for all the info and to donate (link in Bio).
‘All I ask if you ever read a column, followed my Instagram, listened to the podcast or saw me dressed as a poo for no reason. Please buy me a drink to see me out this world, by donating the cost to @bowelbabefund which will enable us to raise funds for further life saving research into cancer. To give more Deborah’s more time!
‘Right now for me it’s all about taking it a day at a time, step by step and being grateful for another sunrise. My whole family are around me and we will dance through this together, sunbathing and laughing (I’ll cry!!) at every possible moment!
‘You are all incredible, thank you for playing your part in my journey. No regrets.
‘Enjoy life x Deborah.’
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.
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