Dame Deborah James praised by bowel cancer survivor for inspiring her to get symptoms checked

A survivor of bowel cancer who was inspired to get her symptoms checked after seeing Dame Deborah James on TV says the activist saved her life (Picture: Instagram/@bowelbabe)

Dame Deborah James has been praised by a bowel cancer survivor who was inspired to get her symptoms checked after seeing the campaigner on TV.

The writer and podcaster died on Tuesday after a five-year battle with cancer; she had spent years raising awareness of the disease and has raised millions for cancer research through her BowelBabe Fund.

Before her death, Dame Deborah was visited at home by Prince William where she was awarded her Damehood in person.

The UK is in mourning for the activist, wife and mother-of-two, and many are now remembering her life and the difference she made.

Teresa Whitfield, who was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer after seeing Dame Deborah talking about symptoms on TV, appeared on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday where she told the Today programme that Dame Deborah had saved her life.

‘I was watching TV one morning, about October 2018, Dame Deborah was talking very openly and frankly about the symptoms…. of bowel cancer,’ she recalled.

‘I thought some of these symptoms, not all of them but some of them, I was experiencing.

Dame Deborah Jamers
Dame Deborah has raised millions for cancer research (Picture: Instagram/bowelbabe )

‘She triggered something in my mind that said “Maybe I should be going to see the doctor about my symptoms.”‘

Whitfield, then 48, followed her instinct and saw her GP but was sent away, being told it was ‘nothing to worry about’ as she was young, fit and healthy.

‘But I carried on following Dame Deborah, and all through her campaign and messaging, it all still came back to symptoms of bowel cancer,’ Whitfield said.

‘Without her being on TV and without her campaigning, I wouldn’t have kept going back to my GP. You know your own body, you know you’re not right, and I knew I wasn’t right but I wasn’t expecting to be diagnosed with bowel cancer.

‘But she triggered something to make me want to go and find out whether it was or not.’

Dame Deborah Jamers
The podcaster and activist brought the symptoms of bowel cancer into mainstream discussion (Picture: Getty)

Donate to Dame Deborah James' Bowelbabe fund

You, Me & The Big C podcast host Dame Deborah James has admirably raised money towards cancer charities after announcing that her own bowel cancer was now terminal.

She is now receiving end-of-life hospice care at home due to her cancer treatment being stopped last month.

With the support of Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Dame Deborah and her family established the Bowelbabe Fund, with all money raised to be allocated to funding clinical trials and research into personalised medicine that could result in new treatments for cancer patients, including projects in collaboration with partners such as The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden. Donations will also go towards continued support to raise awareness of cancer, such as Bowel Cancer UK’s Never Too Young campaign.

At the start of June, the fund had so far raised £6.6million to go towards clinical trials and research into personalised medicine for cancer patients and supporting campaigns to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

You can donate via the Just Giving link here.

Whitfield, who has a husband and young daughter, kept returning to the GP despite ‘not having enough symptoms to trigger an NHS intervention,’ and was eventually diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer.

Now thankfully cancer-free, Whitfield told the programme that Dame Deborah Sad saved her life thanks to her campaigning.

speaking directly to the activist’s family, she said: ‘I think I actually have only one word which is thank-you.

‘Without her, I don’t think I would be here today.

‘Her campaigning is critical and we, as bowel cancer patients, as bowel cancer survivors, and as anybody who thinks they might have bowel cancer, we have to carry on with the legacy that she has.

Dame Deborah Jamers
Teresa saw Dame Deborah speaking about the symptoms on TV (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

‘We have to carry on campaigning to raise awareness.’

Also appearing on Tuesday morning’s show was Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK.

Edwards told the show that Dame Deborah had left behind ‘a tremendous legacy’ and we owed it to her to not let the discussion around bowel cancer and its symptoms to ‘slip back into the dark.’

She said: ‘[Dame Deborah] never stopped raising awareness.

‘Bowel cancer is something people find difficult to talk about often and … they find it a little bit embarrassing.

‘She’s stripped all of that away and shone a powerful light on it.’

Deborah James
Dame Deborah was moved to end-of-life care and continued making the most of every day (Picture: Instagram)

The campaigner’s devastated family led the tributes to the mum-of-two on Monday, saying they were ‘deeply saddened’ to share the heartbreaking news of her death.

They wrote: ‘Deborah, who many of you will know as Bowelbabe, was an inspiration and we are incredibly proud of her and her work and commitment to charitable campaigning, fundraising and her endless efforts to raise awareness of cancer that touched so many lives.

‘Deborah shared her experience with the world to raise awareness, break down barriers, challenge taboos and change the conversation around cancer. Even in her most challenging moments, her determination to raise money and awareness was inspiring.’ 


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The family added: ‘We thank you for giving us time in private as a family, and we look forward to continuing Deborah’s legacy long into the future through the @bowelbabefund.

‘Thank you for playing your part in her journey, you are all incredible.

Macmillan cancer support

If you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with cancer, Macmillan can offer support and information.

You can contact their helpline on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week from 8am to 8pm), use their webchat service, or visit their site for more information.

MORE : Dame Deborah James’ mum Heather ‘heartbroken’ after podcaster dies following bowel cancer battle aged 40

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