Bowel Babe Deborah James said stage four cancer diagnosis gave her a better relationship with her kids
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Featured Image Credit: Instagram/@bowelbabe
In her newly released documentary, the behind-the-scenes life of Dame Deborah James is candidly revealed and she explained how her cancer diagnosis ultimately gave her a 'better relationship' with her kids.
It’s hard to imagine living with Stage 4 cancer, let alone being able to do it with a smile - but that is exactly what podcaster and activist Deborah James did.
Better known as Bowel Babe thanks to her online blog, the 40-year-old raised millions for charity all while bravely documenting the grim reality of her treatment.
BowelBabe: In her own words airs tonight on BBC Two (17 April) and uses archival footage of Deborah to tell the extraordinary last five years of her life.
Defiant till the end, the 40-year-old refused to become the ‘traditional’ terminally ill patient and have her remaining time tinged by sadness.
Instead, she created her iconic blog, Bowel Babe, as it’s was the ‘polar opposite’ of people’s perception of a Stage 4 bowel cancer patient.
On her podcast, You, Me and the Big C, she told listeners: “I have the old man’s cancer…but I like high heels and glitter skirts as much as the next 35-year-old…it’s about breaking down those perceptions.”
Shockingly though, she was accused of ‘sexualising cancer’ and treating it like a ‘party’ by critics, who said she didn’t ‘understand what cancer was really like’ as she never lost her hair.
Determined not to let her condition define her though, she kept up her appearance as a way of coping with her declining health and raising millions for her Bowel Babe fund.
The mum-of-two admitted that she still wanted to see her old self in the mirror, adding that the makes up and clothes were a mask that ‘very much hides the insecurity of being scared’.
Deborah even joked about ‘upping her make-up game’ and once told listeners: “…even my husband was like Deborah you take better care of yourself than you ever did before cancer.”
Even her sense of self was impacted, with the Dame adding that cancer gave her ‘a confidence in my own ability and my own self-worth’ as she could see the impact of her work.
Whilst more confidence was a surprising perk of her diagnosis, cancer had a much deeper effect on Deborah James as she became closer to her young children.
Before she had bowel cancer, Deborah was a busy deputy headteacher who helped to turn around failing schools.
Her incredible career often came at a cost though, as she was able to spend little time with her own children: Eloise, 13, and Hugo, now 15.
In a brave moment, she admitted: “I was very career driven, work-a-holic, would leave my house at 6 am in the morning come back at 7:30 at night…I was never there at any sports days, plays whatever it was…I had my priorities wrong but I didn’t know it at the time.”
After her shock diagnosis though, her relationship with her kids dramatically changes ad she had to ‘learn to become a mum’.
Even the children struggled to recognise their mum following her terminal diagnosis, brutally telling her that they never spent time with her before bowel cancer.
Continuing, she said: “I’m not a natural earth mother… but I’ve now got a much better relationship with my kids as a result of my cancer. I think it changes you, I wish something else had changed me.”
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week