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The Duke of Cambridge today praised ‘brilliant, brave and inspirational’ bowel babe Dame Deborah James as he met some of the staff who treated her.
He also donned medical scrubs and viewed first hand pioneering robotic surgery delivering faster, more accurate treatment to cancer patients on a visit to The Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea where Dame Deborah was a patient.
Earlier this month William, who is President of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, privately visited her at home in Woking, Surrey, where she has been discharged for home hospice care with her family.
Dame Deborah was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has spent the last five years giving a candid account of her treatment via the You, Me and the Big C Podcast as well as raising more than £6 million for cancer research.
Speaking 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.
‘She was incredible, incredible. She was surrounded by her family, we had a lovely afternoon,’ he said.
The Duke of Cambridge today praised ‘brilliant, brave and inspirational’ bowel babe Dame Deborah James as he met some of the staff who treated her
Earlier this month William, who is President of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, privately visited Deborah at home in Woking, Surrey, where she has been discharged for home hospice care with her family
Mrs Kimber remarked that he had been able to help her ‘create some fantastic memories’.
William 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.’
Consultant Interventional Radiologist Dr Nicos Fotiadis, who also treated Dame Deborah, thanked William for going to see her at home as it sent a ‘powerful’ message. ‘You lead from the front and we are very happy about that,’ he told William.
The royal replied, slightly embarrassed at the praise: ‘No, no. It is important to acknowledge and recognise people like Deborah who do such an awful lot to help other people in very difficult circumstances. She’s done a brilliant job.’
William asked Mrs Kimber: ‘Tell me a bit more about what she has done for cancer. Obviously she’s been brilliant at raising the profile, as she put it she ‘made bowel cancer sexy’. Those are her words not mine.’
Mrs Kimber said: ‘She’s been am ambassador for everyone. She is amazing inside and out. We all have our own difficult cancer journeys and for her it’s been over five years, but she always, always took time out for other people. We go to meet literally in a chemotherapy clinic and we built our friendship through that. I saw first-hand the time she took for people. And going forward, what she has done is fantastic for the Marsden, fantastic for the cancer community and what a legacy we have. And she is still thinking of others even now. I have been honoured to call her a friend. It’s difficult now.
The Duke of Cambridge (left), 39, observed a robotic microwave ablation procedure at the Royal Marsden hospital in west London
‘The team here are incredible. It’s an absolute privilege to be a patient here. ‘
The prince was then introduced to the team of staff who treated her: chief nurse Mairead Griffin, deputy chief nurse Jo Waller and ward sister Rowena Trono.
He told them: ‘She was on amazing form when I saw her. ‘
‘She always is, she is always brightly dressed, always got her hair and make-up done. Doing tik toks with the staff and patients. And forever sitting outside in the sunshine to meet other patients. Waving at people outside. Just so positive,’ Ms Waller said.
‘She was here for a few months at the end and the main part of our goal was to get out and see her family. We tailored treatments so that she could get outside more and do that, Mother’s Day and things like that..’
Deborah (pictured) was honoured with a Damehood after raising millions of pounds for charity since last week as she revealed she was receiving end-of-life care
The former headteacher (pictured right, with children Eloise, 12, Hugo, 14 and husband Sebastien Bowen) was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her more than 500,000 Instagram followers up to date with her treatments
Prince William said he found it ‘very difficult’ speaking to Deborah’s children Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, during the visit last week
HOW DEPUTY HEAD TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA STAR HAS TRANSFORMED BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS
In 2018, Deborah (left) joined Lauren Mahon (front) and Rachael Bland (right) to present the award-winning podcast You, Me and the Big C on Radio 5 Live. Bland tragically died of breast cancer on September 5th that year; her husband Steve Bland now co-presents the show
- 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.’ Pictured: Deborah James undergoing a scan at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London
- 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
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. She spoke very eloquently and very knowledgably about all the cancer treatments, not just her own.
‘She has obviously done her research and was very passionate about making sure the money raised goes straight towards finding more treatments, speeding things up. She was very strong about that.
‘It’s amazing really in the world we live in that still talking openly and movingly about cancer is not as common as it should be. So many people are affected by cancer.
‘I love Deborah, she’s fantastic. Her legacy is massive. She said bowel cancer wasn’t a sexy as breast cancer, her words, but it’s true though.
Prince William (pictured) proved himself his mother’s son today when he observed a minimally-invasive treatment for cancer in medical scrubs – similar to Princess Diana’s appearance 26 years ago
‘There are so many cancers and some get a bit more publicity than others. And she wanted to make sure some of the less sexy, the less well-known cancers get more knowledge and understanding about them.
‘I was very honoured to be able to speak to her. It felt like a very personal family moment that I was there for. It was a glorious day as well. Thank you to you all for what you have done for her. She spoke very highly about her care. It was a touching moment. ‘
Dame Deborah James says she has been ‘blown away’ after her charity T-shirt sells out online within hours of its launch
Dame Deborah James said she was ‘blown away’ after her charity T-shirt line sold out within hours of being launched.
The cancer campaigner, known as Bowel Babe, announced she was releasing the tops emblazoned with the motto ‘Rebellious Hope’ on Thursday as part of a new clothing range.
But fans snapped up the first 10,000 T-shirts – created with fashion brand In The Style – within one hour.
Another batch of 10,000 was then released which also sold out within minutes.
The sales have raised about £140,000 for Dame Deborah’s Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK – with total donations soaring past £6.4million.
The 40-year-old, who is receiving end-of-life care for stage four bowel cancer, told The Sun: ‘I can’t believe how quickly it sold out. I am blown away yet again. The charity T-shirt is just a sneak peek but I am so proud.’
Dame Deborah, whose memoir topped Amazon’s bestsellers chart this week, said her clothing collection will also include the dress she wore when Prince William presented her damehood.
He added: ‘I met her children as well. It was very difficult talking to them about it but they seem to have been talking about the situation a lot.
‘That’s so important in those moment that the family talk and communicate about it and the children are brought into what is going on.
‘They seem like such a lovely family, the parents were there was well. It was such a very special moment, it really was. A lot of parents and families I can imagine don’t know how to brooch the subject.
‘It’s so difficult to talk about. But they were very open. I was asked lots of questions. It got me quite moved that they wanted to hear those answers, it was so open. Thank you so much for looking after her so well. She is a brave and inspirational woman.’
Speaking afterwards Ms Trono said she would never forget Deborah’s smile, which never faltered even at her darkest hours, and the time she gave to other patients. She recalled how she would put ‘out of office’ notes on her door to signal she had gone to speak to them.
Ms Griffin added: ‘People have always been so afraid to talk about cancer but she has turned that on its head. Her openness was key. ‘
The staff admitted it had been difficult to discharge her knowing she was leaving for end of life care and everyone on the medical team had been offered ‘debriefs’ with their psychological and wellbeing team.
‘It’s such a privilege to do this job, though, and help people make their life as fulfilling as possible,’ Ms Waller said.
She said of William’s visit: ‘He has such massive empathy and an ability to put people at ease. He’s always like that when he is hear, spending time on the wards speaking to people in no hurry to go. He really absorbs everything. His late mother was our patron and she was like that too.’
William also discussed the hospital’s revolutionary new microwave robotic treatment which destroys a tumour without removing it, so there are no scars or stitches, with Consultant Interventional Radiologist Dr Nicos Fotiadis, who also treated Dame Deborah and patient Mrs Kimber.
‘Honestly, I’ve had more difficult dentistry over the years,’ Mrs Kimber said.
‘The team make you feel at ease, the recovery time is pretty quick.’
The prince laughed, shocked, when she told him that she ‘had to confess’ to playing tennis two days after her surgery.
‘Seriously?’ exclaimed William. ‘You should never tell a doctor that! Say you are resting!’
Dr Fotiadis explained how the surgery was done under general anaesthetic as it is painful but that it is a ‘powerful’ tool in their armoury.
The prince then donned maroon scrubs and ‘overshoes’ to into theatre to witness live surgery known as robot-guided microwave ablation.
In his role as President of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, William (pictured) visited the hospital’s facilities today to learn about some of the innovative work that is being carried out to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment
During his visit, Prince William also chatted to staff about the team’s morale during the coronavirus pandemic
He then watched a robotic microwave ablation, where a heat-generating probe is used to kill cancer cells
This type of interventional radiology uses energy from electromagnetic waves to heat and destroy advanced cancer via a tiny probe which is inserted into the patient through a tiny incision just one to two millimetres wide.
It decreases the time of the procedure, is more accurate and can access more difficult to target areas of the body. Dr Nicos described it as ‘game changing’. Robotic-guided ablation procedures are currently only available at The Royal Marsden.
After leaving the theatre William made his way outside of the hospital to The Royal Marsden’s ‘Man Van’, a mobile health clinic which is visiting workplaces and churches in London to improve healthcare access and the chance of early cancer diagnoses for men who are less likely to receive regular health checks.
Early diagnoses of prostate and other urological cancers is likely to increase the success of treatment.
The initiative, which was first launched in March this year, focusses on men of working age who often have worse prostate cancer outcomes, particularly those in manual jobs who can struggle to access healthcare, as well as men of Afro-Caribbean heritage who have roughly double the risk of developing prostate cancer.
William went inside the van to talk to Clinical Research fellow Dr Masood Moghul and Advanced Nurse Practitioner Fionnuala McCarthy.
William listened intently about their work, which starts with encouraging men to talk about their lifestyles and undergoing a simple blood test, saying: ‘The idea is to get ahead of the game and make it seem normal, it seems.
In 2018, it was reported that the Royal Marsden has the largest and most comprehensive programme of robotic surgery for cancer in the UK, treating urological, gynaecological, head and neck, gastrointestinal and colorectal patients. Pictured, Prince William today
The hospital has a poignant significance for William (pictured during his outing today) as it was the place Princess Diana visited on her first solo engagement in 1982
William (pictured right) became President of the Royal Marsden in 2007, taking over the Presidency from his mother who held the role from 1989 until her death in 1997
Father-of-three William (pictured during today’s visit) also observed surgeons in the operating theatre during a visit in 2018
The Duke of Cambridge speaks to staff as he visits The Royal Marsden hospital, pictured
A beaming Duke of Cambridge waves to staff during his visit to the London hospital today
‘Can you get your results here and now?
‘Some guys just bury things. They don’t walk to talk about them. ‘
And he joked that may be they could offer their clients a ‘free pint’. ‘Get them to have a pint and chat while they are waiting for their blood test.’
‘Funnily enough we have been trying for a while to get funding for a coffee machine,’ Dr Moghul told him
As he left William was cheered by crowds who had gathered on the street. He was just about the step into his car when he spotted staff on the steps of the hospital and rushed back to greet them and thank them for their work. One greeted him with a squeak of excitement.
The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education.
Today, The Royal Marsden is a world-leading cancer centre specialising in cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education with two hospitals, one in Chelsea and the other in Sutton, Surrey.
Princess Diana acted as patron to the charity from 1989 and paid the hospital in Chelsea regular visits until her death in 1997. In 1996, the Princess of Wales visited Harefield Hospital in Middlesex, where she too donned surgical clothing (pictured) to watch a heart operation on a small boy from Cameroon
Prince William proved himself his mother’s son today when he observed a minimally-invasive treatment for cancer in medical scrubs – similar to Princess Diana’s appearance 26 years ago.
In his role as President of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, he visited the hospital’s facilities today to learn about some of the innovative work that is being carried out to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Princess Diana acted as patron to the charity from 1989 and paid the hospital in Chelsea regular visits until her death in 1997.
In 1996, the Princess of Wales visited Harefield Hospital in Middlesex, where she too donned surgical clothing to watch a heart operation on a small boy from Cameroon.
The hospital has a poignant significance for William as it was the place Princess Diana visited on her first solo engagement in 1982.
William became President of the Royal Marsden in 2007, taking over the Presidency from his mother who held the role from 1989 until her death in 1997.
Today is not the first time that William has entered the operating theatre as he is believed to be the first royal to witness surgery at Marsden during a visit back in 2013.