Deborah James has made her last TV appearance filmed before she was given the devastating news she’d be moved to end-of-life care. The podcast host and cancer campaigner was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, and in May revealed she had exhausted all treatment options and that she didn’t know how long she had left to live.
In her latest move to raise awareness of the disease, Deborah, who was made a Dame last month and received her honour at her parent’s Surrey home from Prince William, encouraged “smashing taboos” associated with bowel movements as it may “save lives” by helping people recognise bowel cancer symptoms.
The 40-year-old, known as Bowel Babe online, appeared on Thursday night (June 16) in an episode of Embarrassing Bodies. She had feared she wouldn’t be able to see her appearance but Channel 4 brought forward the episode’s release.
Recorded while she was still in hospital, Dame Deborah encouraged viewers to “not be embarrassed about it,” and recognise the importance of monitoring their bowel movements. She said: “We all poo, our favourite celebrities poo! Let’s kind of break down smash those taboos because quite frankly, that is going to save lives. Let’s spread the word.”
Speaking to Embarrassing Bodies presenter, GP Dr Tosin Ajayi-Sotubo, Dame Deborah recalled her experience with being diagnosed with bowel cancer. “I had this image of bowel cancer as an old man’s disease, which I now know is absolutely not the case,” she said.
“Actually, unfortunately, I’ve met so many young people. It’s one of the largest rising cancers under 50. It was quite shocking actually. I think it was the last thing that I thought it would be.”
When asked about her symptoms by Dr Tosin, Dame Deborah explained: “The biggest thing that I had was a change of bowel habits. I started going to the poo – we need to say that – eight times a day. And I used to be once a day kind of girl.
“Then I started getting really tired. I remember drinking loads of cups of coffee just to try to keep myself awake. Then I started losing loads of weight and I started pooing blood. For me it was the combination of these changes that led to me having a gut instinct that something wasn’t right.”
In emotional scenes, she went on to tell viewers why “talk of poo, should never be a taboo”. She said that “our favourite celebrities poo” so there is no reason why we shouldn’t talk about it more. Dr Tosin was then seen heading to Hammersmith in London to help educate people about the colour of stools and when you should consult a GP.
Since her diagnosis, Dame Deborah has kept her Instagram followers up to date with her treatments to raise awareness about the signs of bowel cancer. She has so far raised more than £6.6 million for Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity through her Bowelbabe fund on JustGiving.
Last month, Dame Deborah announced she had written another book, titled How To Live When You Could Be Dead, documenting what she has learned about having a positive mindset when faced with life’s biggest challenges. Despite not being due to be published until August, the book shot to number one on the Amazon list through pre-orders, with her royalties going towards her Bowelbabe Fund.
The podcast host followed this up by releasing a clothing line with In The Style, with 100% of the profits going towards the cancer charity, as well as a ‘Rebellious Hope’ T-shirt which has recently been released in a unisex version.
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