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Dame Deborah James has called for supermarket brands to include bowel cancer symptoms on toilet paper wrapping – after M&S announced plans to add information on signs of the disease to its packaging.
The former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner, 40, from London, is currently receiving hospice care at her parents home after revealing last month that she’s no longer receiving active treatment for bowel cancer.
Mother-of-two James was first diagnosed with the disease 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.
Deborah appeared on Lorraine today in a pre-recorded message to congratulate her friend Cara Hoofe, who successfully campaigned for her employer M&S to include bowel cancer symptoms on its toilet paper packaging.
In her clip, Deborah – dressed in a vibrant animal print jumper – encouraged other brands to follow suit.
Appearing in a pre-recorded interview on Lorraine this morning, Dame Deborah James called for big brands to include bowel cancer symptoms on toilet paper wrapping – after M&S announced plans to add it to its packaging
The former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner (pictured), 40, from London, is currently receiving end-of-life care at her parents home after doctors stopped active treatment for her bowel cancer
The former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner (pictured), 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
‘Congratulations Cara. I’m so pleased that you are talking about the hard work that you have put in, and what you have achieved,’ said Deborah.
‘I know we’ve both gone through bowel cancer and we’ve spoken so many times about getting signs and symptoms on loo roll but you finally did it and I am really really proud of you for doing that.
‘It’s the start of things to come, I think we should now do a big shout out to other companies now, saying come on where’s your signs and symptoms.
‘Forget about the puppies, I’m bored of the puppies. We need actual information signposted on those loo rolls so I’m hoping lots of other big brands will now go “yeah, hang on, this makes massive sense. This is what we need to be doing so”.
‘I can’t wait to see that happen, and a massive, massive well done to you,’ concluded Deborah to her friend Cara, who could be seen becoming emotional.
Last month, M&S, in partnership with Bowel Cancer UK, announced their plan to include signs and symptoms for bowel cancer on the labelling of the everyday product.
M&S employee Cara 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.
‘I’m over the moon, I don’t really have words to describe how I feel about M&S, my company doing this to raise awareness around bowel cancer, especially because we’ve got such a huge customer base as well,’ said Cara.
Cara explained how Deborah has been a huge inspiration to her – with signage also going up in both customer and staff toilets at M&S.
Deborah revealed some happy news for her family amid her battle with terminal cancer – as she shared her brother has got engaged to his girlfriend of 11 years
Meanwhile she revealed how a visit from Prince William, who met with the family at home in Woking last month, had prompted the proposal
‘I met Deborah in the earlier days of her diagnosis through Bowel Cancer UK, I think one of the first times we met in person was at a carol concert for the charity where she was speaking,’ Cara said.
Symptoms of bowel cancer
– Change in bowel habits with diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
– Thin or loose bowel movements
– Blood or mucous in stools
– Abdominal pain, bloating and cramping
– Anal or rectal pain
– Lump in the anus or rectum
– Unexplained weight loss
– Unexplained anaemia
‘We’ve kept in contact through messaging throughout our treatment and she’s been a support to me and I really hope I’ve been a support to her as well. This whole idea for the loo roll came off the back of how Deborah carries herself in everyday life.
‘I’m probably a little more reserved than Deborah and follow processes, and when I submitted the idea, I sat there and thought, “She’d just tell me, ‘It’s not good enough. What can we do?’” I then swiftly got in touch with our chairman and CEOs and tried to create a noise around it and it worked.’
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.
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.
She is now receiving end of life care at her parents’ home in Woking and has raised over £6.5million in the weeks since she announced the news after launching her Bowelbabe Fund.
Deborah shared an Instagram post earlier this spring 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 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.’
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
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.’
In recent weeks, 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.
In recent weeks, she has won praise from Prince William who called her ‘brilliant, brave and inspirational’ after meeting 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.’
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.’
HOW DEPUTY HEAD TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA STAR HAS TRANSFORMED BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS
In December 2016, the West London mother-of-two, a deputy head, was diagnosed ‘late’ with incurable bowel cancer
After sharing her experiences on living with the disease on social media, Deborah became known as the ‘Bowel Babe’
In 2018, she became one of three presenters on Radio 5 Live’s You, Me and the Big C, which was conceived by her late co-host Rachael Bland
On September 5th 2018, Welsh journalist and presenter Bland, diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, died at the age of 40
Deborah and her co-host Lauren Mahon continue to present the show, with Steve Bland, Rachael’s husband, joining the duo
On social media and in her column for the Sun newspaper, Deborah has documented the many chemo, radiotherapy sessions and surgery she’s had since
During her treatment, Deborah told followers on Instagram ‘By my general lack of being on here (dancing!), that Things have moved (in the wrong direction) very quickly cancer wise.’
In 2019, she had a procedure known as CyberKnife, a highly targeted form of radiotherapy to attack an inoperable lymph node close to her liver
The pandemic’s impact on cancer services saw her campaign for care to continue as normal and, earlier this year, she launched the ITV’s Lorraine’s ‘No Butts’ campaign, raising awareness on bowel cancer symptoms
Since last year, she has been taking new experimental drugs as part of a trial after her oncology team gave her the green light to do so
August, Deborah revealed that scans she’s had in recent days have revealed her cancer has gone in the ‘wrong direction very quickly’
She told followers she would be taking a break on social media over the weekend to ‘snuggle’ with her family ahead of more scans
The mother-of-two said a new ‘rapidly-growing’ tumour near her liver had wrapped itself around her bowel
On October 1, Deborah celebrates her 40th birthday
By October 18, the mother-of-two told her followers her chemotherapy is working
Days later, she was rushed to A&E with ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’
In November, she reveals she is unable to walk for more than 20 minutes and remains ‘very weak’
By December, Deborah said she was ‘not sure what her options were’ after her liver stent ‘stopped working’
In January, she had five operations in 10 days after nearly dying in an acute medical emergency
January 25, Deborah returns home from hospital after three weeks
March 14, the mother-of-two is back in hospital as an in-patient after suffering from septic infection
In April, she concerned fans with snaps after suffering ‘a rough few days’
April 14, the mother-of-two tells fans she has been discharged from hospital but calls the situation ‘very tough’
April 27, she tells Lorraine that she has spent ’80 per cent’ of the year in hospital
May 9 – Deborah announces she has moved to hospice care