Deborah James, 39, 'feels like she is riding a hideous rollercoaster'

‘I’m riding a hideous rollercoaster’: BBC’s Deborah James, 39, who has stage 4 bowel cancer, smiles from her hospital bed as she has a stent fitted in her failing liver after revealing she has a ‘rapidly growing tumour’

  • Deborah James, known as Bowel Babe, updated worried fans last night online
  • Said she has had a stent fitted into her bile duct to help her liver function 
  • Londoner, 39, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2016 
  • Told Instagram followers on Friday scan results had shown ‘Things have moved (in the wrong direction) very quickly’  
  • She revealed yesterday a new fast-growing tumour has wrapped itself around her bile duct and isn’t responding to the drugs she’s currently on  
  • Told fans she remains hopeful of a ‘new plan’ but admitted she’d felt at ‘rock bottom’ in recent days
  • The mother-of-two will now start chemotherapy in a bid to inhibit the tumour 

BBC podcast presenter Deborah James has revealed she has had a stent fitted into her bile duct to help her liver function again after announcing her bowel cancer has ‘moved very quickly in the wrong direction’.

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. 

Updating fans yesterday, the mother-of-two said that an 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.  

In a post to her 152,000 Instagram followers last night, the bowel cancer campaiger, also known as Bowel Babe, shared a snap from her hospital bed, posting: ‘Update! I never liked rollercoasters, but I seem to be riding the hideous cancer one whether I like it or not! To cut a long story short, my drugs have stopped working and my liver is failing. But I’ve been given hope.’

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BBC podcast presenter Deborah James has revealed she has had a stent fitted into her bile duct to help her liver function again after announcing her bowel cancer has ‘moved very quickly in the wrong direction’

In a post to her 152,000 Instagram followers last night, the bowel cancer campaiger, also known as Bowel Babe, said she had been ‘given hope’ 

She continued: ‘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 Hopsital 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.’

She added that she hoped to keep fans updated, saying: ‘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, greatful to have hope and options. As my oncologist said, don’t write me off yet!’      

In a second selfie shared later to her Instagram, Deborah gave a thumbs up to the camera and said the highlight of her stay had been ‘discovering the pink version of hospital admission gowns!’

In a second selfie shared later to her Instagram, Deborah said: ‘Highlight of my stay so far. Discovering the pink version of hospital admission gowns!’ 

Yesterday, writing in her column in The Sun, she said the stent ‘should’ stop her liver from failing and might work for between three to six months.

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.’

She added: ‘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’. 

Deborah, 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 will begin another course of chemotherapy after she revealed ‘my drugs aren’t working’ 


Tears: Last month, the mother-of-two posted photos of herself crying after a tough week of treatment, saying: ‘For the last week my whole world has been consumed by cancer’

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’. She had two children with the banker, Hugo, 13, and Eloise, 11. 

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.’

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. 

Well-wishers – including Lisa Snowdon, Anthea Turner and Jodie Kidd – have been sending their love to Deborah since she posted on Friday

Famous faces were quick to respond to Deborah’s post, with Jodie Kidd, Lisa Snowdon and Anthea Turner sending their best wishes. 

Jodie Kidd wrote: ‘So, so, so much love, snuggle up, cuddle time and we’re all sending you so much love from Sussex.’

Her co-host on You, Me and the Big C, Lauren Mahon, wrote: ‘Love you legs eleven! Rest. Recoup. Rosè. Then show this little c*** who is boss (you OBVS) xxxxxxx’ 

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. 

‘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

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. 

In December 2016, the West London mother-of-two, a deputy head, was diagnosed ‘late’ with incurable bowel cancer. 

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.  

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 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
  • 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
  • In her Sun column today, 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

 

Last year, after several years of surgery, chemo and radiotherapy, Deborah underwent CyberKnife and ablation.

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. 

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)

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.

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.

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 to Lorraine. ‘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.’ 

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