BBC podcast host Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, has shared a heartbreaking ‘goodbye’ message after moving to hospice 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, calling it the ‘hardest’ part of her 5-year cancer battle, and was admitted as an in-patient earlier this month.
She shared an Instagram post earlier this 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.’
BBC podcast host Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, has said she has stopped active treatment for her disease and moved to hospice care at home
In an emotional post shared to Instagram earlier tonight, Deborah said her body ‘was not playing ball’ and she was spending ‘most of the day sleeping’
The mother-of-two, who has been battling cancer for five years, said she was surrounded by her ‘incredible’ family at home (pictured with her children)
Deborah and her husband Sebastien Bowen in April 2019
She 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.’
‘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.
The mother-of-two, who has faced a challenging six months with her cancer treatment, said she felt ‘heartbroken’
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
During her treatment, 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
- On October 1, Deborah celebrates her 40th birthday
- By October 18, the mother-of-two told her followers her chemotherapy is working
- Days later, she was rushed to A&E with ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’
- In November, she reveals she is unable to walk for more than 20 minutes and remains ‘very weak’
- By December, Deborah said she was ‘not sure what her options were’ after her liver stent ‘stopped working’
- In January, she had five operations in 10 days after nearly dying in an acute medical emergency
- January 25, Deborah returns home from hospital after three weeks
- March 14, the mother-of-two is back in hospital as an in-patient after suffering from septic infection
- In April, she concerned fans with snaps after suffering ‘a rough few days’
- April 14, the mother-of-two tells fans she has been discharged from hospital but calls the situation ‘very tough’
- April 27, she tells Lorraine that she has spent ’80 per cent’ of the year in hospital
- May 9 – Deborah announces she has moved to hospice care
‘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.’
She went on to share news of a ‘Bowelbabe fund’ which is being set up in her name, writing: ‘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).’
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
Deborah continued: ‘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!’
As she finished the post, she wrote: ‘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. Deborah.’
The mother-of-two has spent months recovering after she almost died in January due to a medical emergency
BBC podcast host Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, revealed in April after she was discharged after more than a month in hospital. Pictured, leaving the Royal Marsden Hospital
It’s been a difficult year so far for the mother-of-two, who spent much of the last six months receiving in-patient treatment in hospital.
She has spent months recovering after she almost died in January due to a medical emergency.
In January, she said the ‘trauma’ of nearly dying was still ‘very raw and real’ as she returned home after three weeks in hospital.
Posting on Instagram earlier this year, the mother-of-two spoke of enduring the ‘hardest, most heartbreaking and scariest’ period of her cancer battle in the last week, which has involved three operations and ‘a lot more procedures’ to come.
She told how her husband watched as doctors fought to save her life after she ‘crashed’ in resuscitation.
Deborah, who has incurable bowel cancer, revealed how she ‘nearly died’ in January in an ‘acute medical emergency’. She shared this photo from hospital
‘A week ago at this time in the evening I nearly died in what was an acute medical emergency,’ she wrote. ‘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.
Posting on Instagram, the mother-of-two spoke of enduring the ‘hardest, most heartbreaking and scariest’ period of her cancer battle in the last week, which has involved three operations and ‘a lot more procedures’ to come
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.
‘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.’
Discussing how difficult the last six months have been, James said while she was really happy that the ‘big gun chemo’ she endured has slowed her cancer’s growth, which had been ‘on the march’, it had been an exhausting time.
In the summer, James was told 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.
The stent fitted to stop her liver failing ‘stopped working’ in December.
She explained to her followers at the time how hopes at having a ‘quick replacement operation’ had turned into a ‘nightmare’.
She said: ‘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.’
Last year, 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.
The West London mother-of-two, a deputy head, was diagnosed ‘late’ with incurable bowel cancer in 2016.
She has frequently said that as a vegetarian runner, she was the last person doctors expected to get the disease.
After sharing her experiences on living with the disease on social media, Deborah became known as the ‘Bowel Babe’ and began writing a column for the Sun.
In 2018, Deborah joined Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland 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.