Deborah James, 40, who has incurable cancer, shares emotional post

‘I’m just getting through it second by second’: BBC podcaster Deborah James, 40, who has incurable cancer, shares emotional post amid a ‘really rough time’ in hospital with infection

  • You, Me and the Big C star Deborah James, 40, from London, has terminal cancer
  • Mother-of-two was rushed to A&E last week with a fever and dehydration
  • Deborah was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2016 

BBC podcast presenter Deborah James, who has stage four bowel cancer, has revealed how she is suffering a ‘really rough time’ after being  rushed to A&E last week.

The former deputy head turner cancer campaigner from London, a mother-of-two, 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. 

Last week, she announced she had gone to A&E in the early hours of the morning after suffering from a fever and dehydration.

And yesterday she shared an update on Instagram, writing: ‘Apologies for being quiet on here but it turns out I’m pretty ill at the moment. All your messages have brought a smile to my face at a really tough time.’

BBC podcast presenter Deborah James, who has stage four bowel cancer, has revealed how she is suffering a ‘really rough time’ after being rushed to A&E last week

Yesterday she shared an update on Instagram in which she urged her followers not to take good health for granted 

She continued: ‘I’m using all my energy to recover and today is the first day I’ve felt able to give you an update.

‘Despite so desperately wanting a break from these hideous cancer treatment side effects, it seemed my body had other ideas. 

‘On Wednesday I was admitted with what we now know was another septic infection. I was so ill my incredible husband had to blue light me quickly to A&E. 

‘This time all my Bowel issues have come to ahead and I’m currently dealing with a condition called infectious colitis. Essentially I have a bacterial gut infection that is causing colitis – (Bowel inflammation) and is also in my blood stream.

The social media star has documented her battle with cancer online since being diagnosed and campaigned for better awareness around bowel cancer diagnosis

‘I never knew you could poo so much in the space of 5 minutes! And I look about 8 months pregnant! I’m being looked after well, pumped continually full of antibiotics and fluids but of course feel incredibly weak and tired from no sleep.’

She added: ‘Whilst I’ve always wanted to show every side of cancer, right now living through this all is hard and isn’t something I want even my kids to be witness to. 

‘I’m just getting through it day by day, second by second and my family have been incredible at rallying around to support. 

‘I’m making slow progress and hoping things continue to improve.’

Thanking fans for support, she added: ‘Keep telling those close to you that you love them. Having good health is such a blessing – never take it for granted.’

Last week, she shared a snap to Instagram where she could be seen in laying in a hospital bed attached to a drip delivering intravenous medicine and fluids.

She penned: ‘Not how I want to start a Wednesday! Had to go to A&E, was spiking 40 degree temperatures and was so dehydrated from not being able to keep anything in me!’

The mother-of-two continued: ‘Have spent the last 8 hours being pumped full of antibiotics and fluids – lots of fluids! Feeling better already! Hope this is a fly by visit!’

Last week she revealed how she was rushed to A&E after experiencing ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’ on Tuesday (pictured)

Deborah 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. 


Bowel, or colorectal, cancer affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.

Such tumours usually develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.

Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the bottom
  • Blood in stools
  • A change in bowel habits lasting at least three weeks
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme, unexplained tiredness
  • Abdominal pain

Most cases have no clear cause, however, people are more at risk if they: 

  • Are over 50
  • Have a family history of the condition
  • Have a personal history of polyps in their bowel
  • Suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease
  • Lead an unhealthy lifestyle  

Treatment usually involves surgery, and chemo- and radiotherapy.

More than nine out of 10 people with stage one bowel cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.

This drops significantly if it is diagnosed in later stages. 

According to Bowel Cancer UK figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. 

It affects around 40 per 100,000 adults per year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Earlier this summer, she was told she had an aggressive new tumour near her liver that had wrapped itself around her bile duct – requiring a life-saving stay in hospital.  

The Instagram post comes just hours after Deborah was seen modelling various active wear outfits for her followers – and two days after she revealed her chemotherapy is working.

The podcast host, who admitted she has suffered the ‘hardest three months’ of her life, posted on social media over the weekend and indicated her battle with the disease had turned a corner, revealing: ‘MY CHEMO IS WORKING!  Words, I wanted to hear, but didn’t allow myself to think might happen.’

She continued: ‘I think I’ve been preparing for the worst actually. I have to say waiting for these scan results has been incredibly hard. In my head I’ve gone to hell and back. 

‘These are the first scans since my previous drugs stopped working, my liver packed up, and I got sepsis. 

‘We started me back on what was my first line ‘nuclear chemo’ and it’s fair to say it’s floored me. 

‘Despite the snippets of smiles and glam dresses I choose to share here (because they are the moments in my day that make me smile), behind closed doors this has been the hardest 3 months since my diagnosis physically (and mentally).’

She revealed doctors have said she is ‘stable’, adding: ‘ Essentially the cancer that was rapidly growing and causing my liver to fail, has been halted at least temporarily.

‘And my lymnodes are even shrinking! Am I cured? No. Will I ever be – No. Do I still have active cancer – sadly yes. 

‘But this buys me more time. At least until my next scan!’

Adding she is ‘on her knees’ after having intensive chemotherapy for years, she said: ‘I’m of course over the moon by this news, and know how close I am to have receiving the other side of the coin. 

‘But it hasn’t really sunk in because I’ve had my head down the loo for the last 3 days due to chemo and been asleep minus the fleeting windows of prancing you might see!’

Earlier this summer, she was told she had an aggressive new tumour near her liver that had wrapped itself around her bile duct – requiring a life-saving stay in hospital

In an emotional Instagram post shared two days ago by the podcast host, she said she had felt ‘floored’ by 

She finished the post by writing: ‘But cheers to the blessing of another day, another chance, more options, and more life I didn’t think I’d see! One day at a time!’

Weeks earlier, Deborah celebrated her 40th birthday after fearing it was a milestone she would never see.   

Posting on Instagram, she wrote she had initially planned a ‘low key’ dinner and dance party for her closest friends and family last week, adding: ‘I’m still blown away by reaching 40, but I really wasn’t sure if I’d cope with anything too crazy.’

Snaps shared on Deborah’s social media showed her house decorated with a huge array of balloons, with her friends and family sitting down for a candle-lit dinner before the party. 

Later she shared clips as she performed a speech which she said she had ‘written in the bathroom on her phone’ before the event. 

And last month, she shared snaps from her wild 40th birthday party after fearing it was a milestone she would never see (pictured left, with popstar Sophie Ellis-Bextor who performed at the event) 

Last month, James urged people to see a doctor if they felt something wasn’t right following the death from breast cancer of Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding.

She said: ‘It’s not putting the blame back, I’ve personally beaten myself up about regretting not getting to the GP earlier.’

Sarah passed away on September 5th, just 13 months after confirming her terminal cancer diagnosis. Her death was announced by her devastated family on social media.

Speaking about Sarah’s death, James said it was ‘hard-hitting’, adding: ‘It’s not just breast cancer, it’s knowing our body and understanding the difference between early and late diagnosis.

‘It’s tragic it takes these kind of headlines to remind us that none of us are exempt from the one in two of us who will get cancer in our lifetime.


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

Last week, 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
  • Deborah must now start chemotherapy again after her cancer stopped responding to the drugs she’s currently on
  • On October 1, Deborah celebrates her 40th birthday  

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