Ive always been a fan of podcasts you can learn so much whilst on an hour dog walk so Im always looking for new material.
It was about 3 years ago when I came across a podcast called “You me and the big C”. Big C referring to cancer. Now, it might be strange that I’d listen. I personally have never had cancer or fortunately any other serious medical condition but I was intrigued so I thought I’d give it a go.
These 3 vibrant women who was funny, rude, beautifully honest were changing the narrative. Talking about this subject that is so hard to discuss. Because the word “cancer” is so scary. Terrifying, goose pimply scary. Its a word for many that initially means death. Thats it. Ive seen what it does to family members. My mother in law confided in me that she felt like it was a monster eating her insides. She had many nightmares. I often think about how terrified she must have felt. Even my mum who thankfully survived cancer finds it hard to say the word out loud.
But this podcast was like over hearing a conversation in a pub over a couple of bottles of wine. They were friends, being brutally honest about how they felt, how the treatments were and how they managed to get up everyday with this huge dark cloud hanging over them. It felt very personal. I was hooked. As you always think how would I be with faced with such a path? Would I see it as sentence to death or another challenge to overcome…….
Of course it wasn’t all belly laughs it was cancer after all. But how they dealt with guests living with the diagnosis, the people left behind, the pain it was beautiful. There was such sentiment, empathy warmth. These women knew, they had been there in those shoes, still were so knew the right words.
Sometimes I be in the car with tears running down my face thinking of all those Id lost.
One of the women Deborah James had bowel cancer. She was a deputy Head Mistress, busy mum of two when she was diagnosed just before Christmas almost 6 years ago. She explained that initially she felt tired but don’t we all feel tired? Then her bowel habits started to change, she saw blood and when she did then go to the doctor she had a 6.6cm tumor up her bum!
Its not the best cancer to get. We all giggle about bums and poo and its something we don’t talk about. You and I know that we all poo. We all no matter who you are, how much money you have or how famous you are still sit on a toilet and poo. Its life, but bowel habits isn’t something we like to talk about. Its private, personal not something to share. And that is why bowel cancer is the second biggest killer in the Uk…….
Obviously she had gone through the motions ( forgive the pun) before starting the podcast. She was 36, a keen runner, extremely fit plus a vegetarian. Not on paper someone who is meant to get cancer but here she was. On that journey you don’t want to be on. In and out of hospital constantly having intrusive evasive treatments anything to stop this “thing” growing. Theres a cycle you go through when given any sort of bad news, despair, anger, sorrow, sadness and then eventually acceptance.
For Deborah she decided to embark on a different journey. Cancer had picked the wrong girl. She was going to fight it every step of the way. She was going to ignore the taboo of poo. She was going to shout it from the rooftops the importance of checking ourselves. She was going to share the pain with humor, glamour, laughs and show all of us how its done. Even dressing up as a poo and traveling on a train. And so bowel babe was born.
Her instagram posts were hilarious. She had one of those faces that was warm and generous like her smile. She was the person you’d invite on a night out. The person you’d wanted to be seated next to at a wedding. Bold, loud, with an infectious laugh and so much fun. A real laugh as my Dad would say. Dancing, wearing outrageous outfits, bold color’s lots of sequins oh yes, I would have loved to have met her. And many of her posts were from the Royal Marston which Im sure became her second home. She would be hooked up having chemo with catheter’s visible and still despite obvious discomfort making us smile.
I like many others were delighted when she announced in 2020 she was cancer free. Her announcement or though joyous was full of trepidation. She was fully aware it could come back and unfortunately it did.
On May the 9th this year she announced that her poor body was just not playing ball and she was moving back to her parents for care. It was a brave decision not to go home and die but she didn’t want her children to have those memories in their family home.
So what happened next… Did she rest? Did she f*** she continued her quest and raised over £6 million. She published a book, designed the “Rebelious Hope” T shirt she had a rose named after her and the icing on the cake was she was made a Dame.
She campaigned for a message to be written on toilet rolls she did everything in her power to save lives when she knew her’s couldn’t be saved.
I, like the whole of the Uk watched and listened her final weeks. Being a mother of a similar age I contemplated my mortality. How would I deal with having to leave my children, not seeing them grow into adults, see my husband build a new life without me, not meet my Grand children. And how would i spend my final days? Knowing each day could be my last in this World.
For Deborah laying in her parents garden, her skin brown from the sun she made memories, had fun had Im sure those conversations you never want to have. And then 29th June we received the news she was gone.
And so the world still goes on, everything is the same except there was an extra star in the sky last night. Deborah’s energy right till the end was infectious, she has taught me so much. Her wisdom, her courage, her drive has inspired me and I hope, that whatever life throws at me I can be abit more like Deborah xx
Thank you once again for reading this. Deborah’s story has moved me and I hope wherever you are in the world that you check your poo….. for Deborah xxx #bowelcancer