BBC podcast presenter Deborah James has revealed that her bowel cancer has ‘moved very quickly in the wrong direction’ after scans detected a new ‘rapidly-growing’ tumour close to her liver that isn’t responding to the drugs she’s been taking.
The You, Me and the Big C star, 39, who has been living with stage four bowel cancer since she was diagnosed in December 2016, told her followers on Instagram on Friday that ongoing multiple tests at London‘s Royal Marsden Hospital had revealed the worrying results.
In a post to her 152,000 Instagram followers, the bowel cancer campaiger, also known as Bowel Babe, admitted she’d felt at ‘rock bottom’ in recent days.
Updating fans in her Sun column today, the mother-of-two said that the aggressive new tumour near her liver had wrapped itself around her bile duct, adding ‘the signs have been there for a while’ that the cancer that had ‘gone to sleep’ is back again.
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Deborah James, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, told Instagram followers on Friday scan results had shown: ‘Things have moved (in the wrong direction) very quickly’
Deborah told fans that she was taking the weekend to ‘snuggle’ with my family – and remains hopeful of a ‘new plan’ but admitted she’d felt at ‘rock bottom’ in recent days following test results
She explained: ‘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.’
Detailing the options she now has, she says her oncologist ‘wants me back on chemo’.
She added that she is already an ‘outlier’ having defied the odds that see people with the disease usually live for no more than around two-and-a-half years after diagnosis, saying: ‘There aren’t many other options, and I know, I’ve done hours of research.’
On Friday, 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’.
The upbeat deputy head-turned-campaigner and 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!’
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
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.’
‘Not giving up hope’ The star, who campaigns for better awareness of bowel cancer symptons, said she’d had a ‘crazy a** scary week’ but still had a ‘glimmer of hope’ on further treatment
Deborah told her 152,000 followers on Instagram that 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’ Deborah, pictured at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Central London
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.
London-based Deborah, who recently 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.
Writing in Fabulous, Deborah, who presents the Radio 5 Live podcast ‘You, me and the Big C’, explained: ‘The results aren’t a sh*t show. The good news is my liver, lungs, bowel and chest are all clear.
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
The star has been candid about every aspect of her life since being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016, including photos ahead of surgery and chemo sessions (pictured in hospital in 2020)
- 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 InstagramL ‘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
- On Friday, 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 and a ‘new plan’ over the weekend
‘But my cancer has a habit of being awkward and it’s thrown me another challenge, a roadblock we need to navigate around.’
Deborah went on to explain how they track her bloods every week and her tumour markers were raised a little, leading to believe that the results weren’t going to be completely positive.
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.
Campaigner, broadcaster and author Deborah James 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 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
‘I still get scared, I still overthink every possible scenario,’ she explained. ‘I still hate general anaesthetics and I worry every single time that I won’t wake up.’
‘I worry I might wake up too soon, I worry it will all go wrong. I worry I will freak out in the middle of the night, and I get nervous that I’ll have to sleep alone. ‘What if I die mid-operation?’
Deborah went on to say how before heading into the hospital, she makes sure everything is ‘in order at home’ – including reminding son Hugo of her password ‘just in case.’
She also added how she hugs him, Eloise and husband Seb ‘a little bit tighter.’
She continued: ‘I know that I have to take risks if I want to live, it’s a strategy that has got me this far and I’m not giving up now.’
It comes just a week after Deborah poignantly revealed on Lorraine that ‘all she wants is a future’, as she launched a new campaign to mark Bowel Cancer Awareness month.
Speaking candidly about her future she said she’s had to accept she probably won’t see her children, aged 11 and 13, turn 18.
‘I was diagnosed at the age of 35, with stage four bowel cancer,’ she explained. ‘It was the last thing I thought would ever happen. It was caught very late and unfortunately, the chances of survival plummets.
‘It’s really hard when I look at my kids. I have a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old and I wonder if I’ll ever see them getting to 18 and I probably won’t
‘All I want is to have a future and dream about a future. I want to make it to my 40th birthday later in the year, I want to have a huge party.
She added: ‘I want to be a 40-year-old, not Deborah with cancer, I want to be Deborah.’