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Dame Deborah James 'scared to go to sleep' as podcast host receives end-of-life care for bowel cancer

Podcaster Dame Deborah James says she is scared about falling asleep every night because she doesn't know how long she has left to live. The 40-year-old mother-of-two, known as Bowel Babe, announced earlier this month that she is receiving end-of-life care at her parents' home.

Since being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, she has given candid accounts of her treatment on the BBC's You, Me and the Big C podcast, and has now set up a fund for cancer charities. You can read the full message here.

Since announcing she is no longer having treatment, nearly £7million has been raised for cancer charities, but Dame Deborah has admitted she is tired because she is "too scared to go to sleep". Speaking to The Sun, she said: "I'm not planning on dying anytime soon but it's just so unpredictable. I'm scared to fall asleep and that's one of the biggest reasons I'm so tired. I am scared to go to sleep."

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Dame Deborah is now having end-of-life care at her parents' house surrounded by her family because it is "were I want to die", and it meant the family home in London could remain home for her children, Hugo, 14 and Eloise, 12. without the "medical equipment scars" in their memories. Her family, including her siblings have been by her side throughout the past two weeks, and she said: "I think my family are knackered, they have all been incredible - going above and beyond to look after me and nurse me.

"What I have seen from them in the last two weeks is true love, deep love. It's overwhelming. They have all been amazing. I know the pressure on them at the moment is huge, I can't do anything anymore without their help. 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 day."

Her final message has urged people: "Please, please just enjoy life because it's so precious. All I want right now is more time and more life."

And she had a caution for people to "check your poo" for signs of bowel or other cancers, adding: "Come on, I can't leave on on any other word." The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill. The NHS says that more than 90% of people with bowel cancer have 1 of the following combinations of symptoms:

  • a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy/abdominal pain
  • blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids
  • abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss

Deborah has said that five years after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, knowing she is now nearing the end is "still shocking".