BBC podcast star Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, has revealed how she ‘nearly died’ last week in an ‘acute medical emergency’ that has left her traumatised.
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.
Posting on Instagram overnight, 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.
‘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.
BBC podcast star Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, has revealed how she ‘nearly died’ last week in an ‘acute medical emergency’. She shared this photo from hospital
Posting on Instagram overnight, 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
‘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 tommorow.
‘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.’
In new series of cancer podcast, You, Me and the Big C, James, 40, revealed she had to learn how to walk again after being bed-bound with colitis in December
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.’
It comes days after Deborah returned to her popular podcast You, me and the Big C and revealed how she’d been ‘absolutely floored’ by ‘big gun chemo’ during the summer and then a serious infection at the year’s end – which saw her carried into a London hospital at 1am by her husband for treatment.
She told co-hosts Lauren Mahon and Steve Bland on the newest episode of the BBC podcast that she’d had to learn to walk again after being forced to remain in bed for almost a month.
She said: ‘After colitis, I had to relearn to walk again because I had so much fluid.
‘I’d been bed-bound for three weeks and just learning how to walk to the end of the drive or whatever, is just impossible essentially.’
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.
James marked five years since her 2016 diagnosis – a milestone she thought she wouldn’t make – in December but was in hospital with infectious colitis
She explained: ‘I have to be honest with you, going from targeted therapy back onto chemo, it was hardcore, big gun chemo, and it absolutely utterly floored me.
‘I would say my quality of life was just hideous.’
Updating listeners on the current state of her health, she said: ‘Some days I feel fine, my quality of life is OK right now, but I’m not the person people have known for the past four years where I’m running around exercising everyday.’
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.
‘It’s just stable in a really b****y awkward place.’
The campaigner revealed that because of her reduced liver function and the colitis, she’s not likely to qualify for a clinical trial.
She admitted she’d been ‘procrastinating’ over potential treatment options during the Christmas break.
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.’
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.
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.
The former deputy head teacher celebrated her 40th birthday in October but admitted this week that ‘big gun chemo’ in the summer had ‘floored her’
The social media star has documented her battle with cancer online since being diagnosed and campaigned for better awareness around bowel cancer diagnosis
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
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
- 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’