Deborah James says it should be made ‘loud and clear’ that cancer treatment is a priority

Campaigner and broadcaster Deborah James has said it should be made ‘loud and clear’ that cancer treatment is a priority amid the Covid-19 pandemic – and has revealed she’s now had her vaccine. 

The mother-of-two, 38, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2020 when she was 35, and given five years to live. 

She spoke candidly about her life with cancer in podcast You, me and the Big C with the late broadcaster Rachael Bland before she passed in 2018, and has been sharing glimpses of her life and campaigning on Instagram under the moniker ‘Bowel Babe.’

In a video recorded for the Sunday Times, Deborah opened up about continuing her treatment during the pandemic, and revealed she received the Covid jab on 22 January.

Campaigner, broadcaster and author Deborah James, 38, said protecting cancer care should be a priority (pictured upon leaving hospital after going through an operation to treat her stage four metastatic bowel cancer)

Campaigner, broadcaster and author Deborah James, 38, said protecting cancer care should be a priority (pictured upon leaving hospital after going through an operation to treat her stage four metastatic bowel cancer)

Campaigner, broadcaster and author Deborah James, 38, said protecting cancer care should be a priority (pictured upon leaving hospital after going through an operation to treat her stage four metastatic bowel cancer)

The mother-of-two talks about her cancer on Instagram under her moniker Bowel Babe, and shares glimpses of her treatment (pictured during a treatment session in hospital)

The mother-of-two talks about her cancer on Instagram under her moniker Bowel Babe, and shares glimpses of her treatment (pictured during a treatment session in hospital)

The mother-of-two talks about her cancer on Instagram under her moniker Bowel Babe, and shares glimpses of her treatment (pictured during a treatment session in hospital)

‘As somebody who was diagnosed later rather than earlier, unfortunately, the outcomes for those diagnosed later with cancers are simply less good,’ she said. 

‘I get you have to control the pandemic, I’m not a doctor, it makes sense that we have to do that.’

‘But the challenge that you have is, you’re weighing up cancer over Covid.’

The campaigner, who has been undergoing treatment for her cancer since 2016, added: ‘Should we be protesting cancer care? Absolutely, I think we need to make that pledge loud and clear.’

James received the first jab of the Pzifer vaccine on January 22, pictured, and said it gave her hope there was light at the end of the tunnel

James received the first jab of the Pzifer vaccine on January 22, pictured, and said it gave her hope there was light at the end of the tunnel

James received the first jab of the Pzifer vaccine on January 22, pictured, and said it gave her hope there was light at the end of the tunnel 

She went on to say she knows staff are trying their hardest to bring the best care possible, but that pressures on the NHS means cancer care too is under pressure, and that other people are not experiencing the same care that she had. 

Deborah went through an intense operation in January for her metastatic cancer, and has been recovering since. In the video, she opened up about going through treatment during the pandemic. 

She explained how the last year has been much harder for her because she has had to go to all her appointments alone – adding she’s can’t imagine how those going through chemo for the first time must be feeling. 

She went on to say she’s been ‘lucky’ to have continued treatment in spite of Covid, but admitted she still questions whether this year will be her last, and whether she’ll spend it in lockdown. 

Deborah opened up about continuing her treatment during the pandemic, and revealed she received the Covid jab on 22 January. Pictured, previously in hospital

Deborah opened up about continuing her treatment during the pandemic, and revealed she received the Covid jab on 22 January. Pictured, previously in hospital

Deborah opened up about continuing her treatment during the pandemic, and revealed she received the Covid jab on 22 January. Pictured, previously in hospital

Deborah going on her first walk by herself in January after undergoing an operation to treat her cancer

Deborah going on her first walk by herself in January after undergoing an operation to treat her cancer

Deborah going on her first walk by herself in January after undergoing an operation to treat her cancer 

Deborah, who was told she had an eight per cent chance of living longer than five years after her diagnosis, said cancer referrals had dropped dramatically in the wake of Covid.

She explained this is because people have not been getting their symptoms checked, which hinders chances of the cancer getting caught early. 

Speaking of receiving the Pzifer covid jab on January 22, the campaigner, who has been told it ‘doesn’t change anything,’ went on to say how it has given her ‘hope’ that there’s ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ – and admitted she now feels better about the pandemic mentally.

Deborah, known as Bowel Babe, has had 17 tumours in her lifetime and was told in January she was cancer-free. 

However, she said doctors discovered news signs of her bowel cancer which required surgery and she underwent an operation in December – but is now feeling much better.

SYMPTOMS OF BOWEL CANCER

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.

Symptoms include:

  • 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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