Marks and Spencer is set to include bowel cancer signs and symptoms on it’s toilet roll packaging in a move inspired by Dame Deborah James.
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 of 2021.
At the start of the year, the mother-of-two, who shares her children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, with her husband Sebastien, announced she had ‘nearly died’ in hospital, calling it the ‘hardest’ part of her 5-year cancer battle, and was admitted as an in-patient earlier this month.
She is now receiving end of life care bowel cancer at her parents’ home in Woking and has raised over £6 million in the weeks since she announced the news.
Now, M&S, in partnership with Bowel Cancer UK, have announced their plan to include signs and symptoms for bowel cancer on the labelling of the everyday product.
Marks and Spencer is set to include bowel cancer signs and symptoms on it’s toilet roll packaging in a move inspired by Dame Deborah James, 40
M&S employee Cara Hoofe originally came up with the idea, having herself been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2016 at the age of 32.
She submitted it to M&S’ newly launched Straight to Stuart colleague suggestion scheme. Introduced by new CEO Stuart Machin, the scheme encourages colleagues to share ideas and views with him directly via Microsoft Teams, with a quick response guaranteed.
She said: ‘Deborah is a huge inspiration to me and so many other young people diagnosed with bowel cancer.
‘I feel fortunate my journey since diagnois has taken a different path but I want to give a voice to all those who can no longer use theirs to raise awareness.
‘Early detection is so important and my main message to people is don’t feel embarrassed, get things checked out and speak to your doctor.
The changes will come into place nationwide from September, and there will also be signage about bowel cancer symptoms in-store and across support centre toilets
‘I’ve worked at M&S for over ten years and am so happy they are putting my idea into action and so quickly – I’m hoping other companies will consider joining us.’
M&S will also be making a £50,000 donation to Bowel Cancer UK.
The changes will come into place nationwide from September, and there will also be signage about bowel cancer symptoms in-store and across support centre toilets.
Shoppers will also be able to scan a QR code to find out more about the disease on Bowel Cancer UK’s website.
Deborah was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2016, and was told early on that she might not live beyond five years – a milestone that passed in the autumn of 2021.
She shared an Instagram post earlier this month revealing that ‘nobody knows how long she has left’.
She wrote: ‘The message I never wanted to write. We have tried everything, but my body simply isn’t playing ball.
‘My active care has stopped and I am now moved to hospice at home care, with my incredible family all around me and the focus is on making sure I’m not in pain and spending time with them.’
She is receiving hospice care at her parents’ home in Woking, to spare her children the difficult memories of her spending her final days at the family home in London.
The news comes days after she told The Sun that she was ‘scared to fall asleep’ because she does not know how long she has got left.
She added she had felt a ‘deep love’ from her family, saying: ‘I think my family are knackered, they have all been incredible – going above and beyond to look after me and nurse me.’
And speaking of her end of life care recently she said: ‘I feel very strongly that I don’t want my kids to see me agitated and distressed. I want to make sure they see me when I’m having a good days.’
Saying the ‘pressure’ on her young children was ‘huge’, she continued: ‘I want them to have nice memories.
‘I don’t want them to take on the burden of having to care for me, massage my legs because I can’t walk. That would break my heart.’
Deborah is now receiving end of life care bowel cancer at her parents’ home in Woking and has raised over £6 million in the weeks since she announced the news
In recent days, she has won praise from Prince William who called her ‘brilliant, brave and inspirational’ as he met some of the staff who treated her.
Speaking at the Royal Marsden to patient Lorraine Kimber, 59, from Essex, who is currently undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer and knows Mrs James well, the prince described his meeting with her.
‘She was incredible, incredible. She was surrounded by her family, we had a lovely afternoon,’ he said.
‘You know she’s had over 100 tumours. Which is unbelievable. I couldn’t believe that. The resilience you have to have to keep going back again, it’s got to be very draining on you.’
In recent days, she has won praise from Prince William who called her ‘brilliant, brave and inspirational’ after meeting her
William said: ‘She was joking…because they are a very tight family, very close, you could see that….she was joking that at last she could now drink.
‘She said it was brilliant. She was ‘triple parked’ and kept on joking about how many drinks she could get lined up in front of her.
‘She’s realising that being at home is just where she wants to be right now, surrounded by all her loved ones.’
He added: ‘ I love Deborah, she’s fantastic. Her legacy is massive.’