“Don’t die because you’re shy.”
Bold, bright and straight to the point, Dame Deborah James never minced her words.
She had a message to get across and she wasn’t afraid to get it across – regardless of who might feel awkward or uncomfortable.
Lady Debs was diagnosed incurable bowel cancer in December 2016.
From that moment – until the day of his death at the age of 40 — she tried very hard to help others avoid her destructive fate.
She dreamed of a world where hers children, Eloise, 12, and Hugo, 14, grow up without fear of cancer — a world where there was medicine.
Lady Debs knew that in order to achieve this, we as a society had to break down taboos – and talk about things like bowel habits, poo and other “embarrassing” things.
In 2019, she wrote in her Sun column, What cancer made me say: “Why am I sharing my story? Why am I sharing my cancer journey?”
The answer was raise awarenessdespite the fact that it can be “draining, exhausting and painful much of the time” for her.
“There are days when it all makes sense,” Deborah wrote.
“The days when I get a message that someone has caught cancer early – in time to live.
“Days when people tell me that by raising awareness I helped them spot the early signs of bowel cancer.”
And once a teacher, always a teacher.
Former deputy head Lady Debs tried to teach everyone the signs and symptoms bowel cancer.
Even persuaded Tesco and other printable supermarkets bowel cancer symptoms on their toilet paper in an attempt to save their lives!
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of the disease in the UK – after chest, simplicity and easy — 43,000 people are diagnosed annually.
But it is also the second deadliest place in the UK cancerclaiming a tragic 16,000 lives a year.
Fewer than one in ten people survive bowel cancer once it is caught stage 4but detected early—at stage 1—more than nine out of ten patients will live five years or longer.
So knowing signs and symptoms It is very important to catch it early.
“Talking about cancer in all its guises makes it more normal,” Deborah said in April 2019.
“We can break the taboo and stop people from feeling embarrassed.
“The difference between early and late diagnosis is the difference between life and death in many cases.
“It’s the difference between watching your kids grow up or losing it.”
What to pay attention to
HERE ARE the signs and symptoms you need to know:
Blood in the stool: In a heartbreaking message about Debs’ death, her family shared a poignant message from her: “Find a life worth enjoying; to take risks; to love deeply; do not regret; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, get your poo checked – it could save your life.”
You might balk at the idea, but blood in your stool is a key warning sign of bowel cancer – and Deborah noticed it herself months before she was diagnosed.
It is also important to watch for unexplained bleeding from the anus.
Chances are it’s something much less sinister than cancer, like hemorrhoids, but don’t risk it – get tested and remember to tell everyone you love to #checkyourpoo.
Obvious changes in bowel habits: Another potentially embarrassing point to talk about, but if you notice a change in your toileting habits, take note.
It may happen more often than usual, suffer from constipation more often, and something else that is unusual for you.
If you notice any of these, get yourself checked out and see your GP as soon as possible.
Weight loss you can’t explain: Before her diagnosis, Debs recalled feeling tired and noticed that she had lost weight, but she simply chalked it up to the stress of a busy work and life.
You may be happy to see the pounds come off, but be warned – they come off too quickly and there may be a sinister reason behind it.
The main thing here is the “unexplained” weight loss – the disappearance of the beer belly, seemingly for no reason.
If you haven’t tried cutting your hair, but you did it anyway, that’s when the alarm bells should start ringing.
Losing more than 10 pounds without trying can be one of the first signs of bowel cancer, as well as pancreatic, esophageal, stomach, or lung cancer.
Cancer Research UK states: “If you’re 10 your usual weight and lose half a stone in a month or a stone in six months, it should be investigated.”
Extreme tiredness for no reason: Tumors in the intestines usually bleed, which can cause a shortage of red blood cells, a condition known as anemia. This can cause fatigue and sometimes shortness of breath.
Abdominal lump or pain: Abdominal pain, as well as a lump that your doctor may feel in your back or abdomen, more often on the right side, can signal bowel cancer.
And pay attention to these signs
OTHER signs of bowel cancer include:
- Compressive pains in the abdomen
- Feeling of bloating
- Constipation and inability to pass breath
- To be sick
- Feeling like you need to strain – how to do number two – but after you’ve been to the toilet
So what do you do if you notice any of these?
In her column, Dame Debs advised: “If you notice any of these signs or changes, first of all. . . don’t panic. In many cases, there will be another, much less frightening explanation.
“But don’t delay either. If you notice any changes or are concerned, make an appointment with your GP – it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
“And having the courage to make that call can really save your life.”