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Deborah James' beautiful and important last message for us all

By Cathy Owen

Podcaster Deborah James had an important message for people during her final interviews. As she faces her final days, the presenter is thinking of others and urging people to "enjoy life" because life is "precious".

She also urged people to make sure to "check your poo" for signs of bowel or other cancers. More than £2.7 million has been raised in two days after the 40-year-old mother-of-two announced 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.

She 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 final message 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", and she broke down while talking about leaving her children.

"I have always said I don't want to leave a stone unturned, I don't think there is a stone we haven't tried to overturn in order to make my liver work again," she said. "In order to get my body functioning. But unfortunately, I am exhausted, I am absolutely exhausted and we have got to the point now where I know we can't do anything more."

Deborah speaking to BBC Breakfast (BBC Breakfast)

She told BBC Breakfast that she has been "mind-blown" by the response and shared a video of her daughter and family cheering when fundraising hit the £1million mark.

Deborah said: "It is really hard. The thing that I know is I trust my husband, he is the most wonderful man, and so is my family. I know that my kids are going to be more than looked after and will be surrounded by love. You always want to know as a mother 'are your kids going to be OK?', and my kids are going to be fine, but it doesn't mean I am not going to miss every chance that I could have had with them."

Talking about the fundraising, she said: "I always knew there was one thing I wanted to do before I died. I really don't want any other Deborahs to go through this. We know that when we catch cancer early we can cure it. We know that much more investment needs to take place in cancer. We know that we have the skills and the passion in the UK to do that, but I feel that we still need that reminder, that boost and that money. Before I die, the one thing I knew I wanted to do was set up a fund that can continue working on some of the things that gave me life.

"I cannot thank everyone enough for their generosity," she said. "It just means so much to me. It makes me feel utterly loved, and it makes me feel that we are all in it at the end together. We all want to make a difference, and say 'screw cancer' and we need to show it who is boss"

Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK, is raising money to fund clinical trials and research into personalised medicine for cancer patients and supporting campaigns to raise awareness of bowel cancer.
All money raised will be allocated, with the support of CRUK, to funding causes and projects. Find out more here.

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