BBC podcast host Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, has said the ‘trauma’ of nearly dying in an acute medical emergency is still ‘very raw and real’ as she returned home after three weeks in hospital.

Former deputy head teacher and cancer activist, the 40-year-old Londoner has lived with stage 4 bowel cancer since December 2016. She was first diagnosed at age five. 

This month, the mother of two announced that she had “nearly” died in hospital. It was the most difficult part of her 5-year-long battle against cancer.

Deborah posted on Instagram last night that she was now an In-patient and had been released. She said that it was the scariest time of her life and added: “Two and half weeks ago, it seemed like it would be touch and go, if it made it through the night.

BBC podcast host Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, has said the 'trauma' of nearly dying in an acute medical emergency is still 'very raw and real' as she returned home after three weeks in hospital

BBC Podcast host Deborah James has an incurable form of bowel cancer. She said that the “trauma” of almost dying during an acute medical emergency was still very real as she returns home from three weeks spent in hospital.

“Today, after spending 18 days in two hospitals, I was finally discharged from my life as an In-patient. 

‘I’m not out of the woods yet, and I’ll be back in soon, but I’ve reach a point that seemed insurmountable weeks ago. My last IV treatment was today and I still cry.

“The trauma it caused is real and raw. I’m realising I’ve been through a lot. 

It was a lot of things – my life falling apart, getting brought back to it, and the emotional rollercoaster ride that is waiting for me.

The mother-of-two posted a snapshot of her dog as she relaxed on her sofa at home, and confessed she felt 'shattered'

Two-year-old mother posted a photo of her dog while she was relaxing on the sofa in her home.

Deborah shared a selection of clips as she was discharged from hospital, but said she is 'not out of the woods yet'

Deborah shared a selection of clips as she was discharged from hospital, but said she is 'not out of the woods yet'

Deborah shared clips with us as she was released from the hospital. She said that she’s not yet out of the woods.

‘It’s been the scariest time of my life – of my whole families lives.’

She continued: ‘I don’t even know where to begin to thank every single medical person who saved me, who got me through the days, the nights, who did all they can to give me more time. Thank you doesn’t even touch the sides.

‘I’m unsure right now of my next steps, but I have options. It is important that I first recover. Find some commonality, and see the world outside! Eat! 

‘But right now, I’m back home, a place I left not thinking I’d see it again. This is what I’m grateful for.

Last night, Deborah revealed on Instagram she has now been discharged as an in-patient, and said it had been 'the scariest period' her life

Deborah announced on Instagram that she had been released as an inpatient and stated it was her scariest moment.

After being released from hospital, she continued to post a collection of photos and videos. She was also wheeled around the corridors and had her IV canular removed.

Mother-of-two posted also a photo of her dog relaxing on her couch at home. She wrote: “I must say that I am devastated. You think I’ve got weeks to get my sleep in.

“And I continue to take lots of medication. Today, I’ve had 3 naps. This was after I woke up at 10:10am. 

Deborah stated last week that there were ‘lots of tears’ during her stay in hospital. She said: “Today, it’s been one of those days when I feel like the world is spinning around.” It’s the small things that break you sometimes when you are in hospital for too long.’

Last week, Deborah said there had been 'a lot of tears' for days while she was in hospital (pictured)

Deborah, a patient at the hospital last week, stated that she had experienced ‘a lot tears’ over several days (pictured).  

She continued: ‘It’s the failed canulars, being unable to move freely, not feeling like you are making progress, the daily worry about each test, the daily analytics of every bodyily function.

“Wondering what it will take to get you a break.” Is there a golden window that will allow me to receive treatment? 

‘I’m just in a place where I’ve been able to get the big cracks together (just), but I realised as I started my day off sobbing at our lack of being able to get blood from me, that underneath I’m still smashed to pieces.

Earlier this week she revealed she had an 'awful night' in hospital after she was 'rushed back into theatre'

She revealed earlier this week that she spent an “awful night” in hospital and was then rushed to theatre.

Deborah, who has incurable bowel cancer, revealed how she 'nearly died' last month in an 'acute medical emergency'. She shared this photo from hospital

Deborah has an incurable form of bowel cancer and shared the story about how she almost died last month due to an acute medical emergency. From hospital, she shared the following photo

“Tomorrow will bring us a new day and we’ll be stronger to go on.”

However earlier she updated fans to say that she had been told her  bloods had ‘finally’ improved. 

Last week, Deborah filmed herself walking down a hospital hallway. Following the hard, heartbreaking, and scary last week of her battle with cancer, Deborah said she’s making good progress.

Sharing the video on Instagram, Deborah wrote: ‘Today I walked – it’s the first time in nine days I’ve been able to try. 

The mother-of-two was told early on that she might not live beyond five years - a milestone that passed in the autumn (pictured)

The mother-of-two was told early on that she might not live beyond five years – a milestone that passed in the autumn (pictured) 

‘It’s never been so hard to muster the strength and conviction to do so. I’ve had four operations this week (with more to come), am beyond shattered with a very weak body,’ she revealed.

Deborah is seen tentatively walking in the hallway of a hospital.

“But somehow, my body is still ploughing along. Sometimes we have to take it one step at a time. The nurses and doctors are being incredible – I’ve cried on pretty much everyone that pops their head around the door,’ she went on in her post.

‘I’m making progress, it’s slow, but steady. I’m still being monitored very closely. No idea what the next plan is- it’s just taking things bit by bit. 

‘It’s hard when you just want a plan, but the plan is really to try to get me better, whatever pathway that takes. My drains are to do with my bile duct – which they finally stented (well we are in the middle of that process), and acities, which I’ve had 10 litres drained already hence why I’m don’t look pregnant anymore,’ she explained.  

Days ago, Deborah shared a video as she took her first steps through hospital after her difficult week

Deborah, who had just completed her second week of difficult weeks, shared this video with us as she took her first steps in the hospital.  

Sharing the video on Instagram, Deborah wrote: 'Today I walked - it’s the first time in nine days I’ve been able to try.'

Sharing the video on Instagram, Deborah wrote: ‘Today I walked – it’s the first time in nine days I’ve been able to try.’ 

The podcaster shared she is making progress on her Instagram and updated her followers on her condition

Podcaster shared that she was making good progress via Instagram, and also updated her fans on her current condition. 

Posting on Instagram earlier this month, the mother-of-two spoke of enduring the ‘hardest, most heartbreaking and scariest’ period of her cancer battle in the last week, which has involved three operations and ‘a lot more procedures’ to come. 

Her husband sat with her as she recounted how doctors tried to save her after she had ‘crashed in resuscitation’. 

“A week ago, at this hour in the evening, I almost died in an acute medical emergency,” she wrote. “I don’t want to talk about what happened as it was so intense. But, it was thanks to an incredible team of NHS experts who worked through the night to save my life.  

“I couldn’t be more thankful. There are still many procedures I need to do and danger that I must face. But, I’m out of intensive medical care. For the first time, I was able to update you briefly.

After sharing a photo she shared of herself giving a thumbs-up from her hospital bed, she said: “This was me yesterday after I had my third operation in this week. Tomorrow I will have another operation.

“In my 5 years with Stage 4 Cancer, this has been the toughest, most heartbreakingly and scariest. Although I had always planned for my eventual death, I was not prepared for anything so devastating and blinding. 

“I’m speechless. My entire family prayed that I would make it through the night a week ago. To deal with my trauma, I am receiving a lot support and help. 

“My family has been amazing. It was amazing to see my husband hold it together as I crashed and an army doctors stabilized me in resus.

In new series of cancer podcast, You, Me and the Big C, Deborah revealed she had to learn how to walk again after being bed-bound with colitis in December

Deborah, a new podcast about cancer, You, Me and the Big C, reveals that she needed to learn to walk again following being colitis-bound in December.

Posting on Instagram overnight, the mother-of-two spoke of enduring the 'hardest, most heartbreaking and scariest' period of her cancer battle in the last week, which has involved three operations and 'a lot more procedures' to come

The mother-of-2 posted on Instagram overnight that she had endured the “hardest, hardest, most heartbreaking, and scariest” period in her battle against cancer. This included three operations as well as a variety of procedures.

She thanked her followers and said, “Do me a favor. Go tell your family how much you love them.” It is heartbreaking to realize in an instant that you may not see your loved ones again the next day. Have no regrets.’

It comes days after Deborah returned to her popular podcast You, me and the Big C and revealed how she’d been ‘absolutely floored’ by ‘big gun chemo’ during the summer and then a serious infection at the year’s end –  which saw her carried into a London hospital at 1am by her husband for treatment.

She told co-hosts Lauren Mahon and Steve Bland on the newest episode of the BBC podcast that she’d had to learn to walk again after being forced to remain in bed for almost a month.  

According to her, “After colitis, it was necessary to relearn how to walk again due to the fluid in my intestines.”

“I was bedbound for 3 weeks, and it took me three weeks to learn how to walk. It is almost impossible to even get to the other end.  

James shared her feelings about the difficulties she has faced over the past six months. She said that while she is happy with the fact that she received ‘big guns chemo’ to slow down the growth of her cancer, but it was exhausting. 

James marked five years since her 2016 diagnosis - a milestone she thought she wouldn't make - in December but was in hospital with infectious colitis

James celebrated five years since her 2016 diagnosis. She thought it would be a small milestone, but she was admitted with colitis in December. 

She said, “I must be truthful with you. Going from targeted therapy to chemo was hardcore and big-gun chemo. It absolutely floored me.


The large bowel (or colorectal) cancer is caused by the colon or rectum.

These tumours are usually formed from polyps (pre-cancerous growths).

These are the symptoms:

  • Bleeding at the bottom
  • There is blood in the stool
  • Your bowel habits should change for at least three consecutive weeks
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme, unexplained tiredness
  • Abdominal pain

Although most cases do not have a clear cause, individuals are at greater risk if: 

  • More than 50
  • Do you have a family history with the condition?
  • A personal history of having polyps found in their bowels
  • Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s are common.
  • Living a miserable lifestyle  

The treatment usually includes surgery and chemotherapy.

Nine out of ten people diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer live for five years after being diagnosed.

It is more common in the later stages. 

Bowel Cancer UK statistics show that more than 41,200 British are diagnosed each year with bowel cancer. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, it affects approximately 40 percent of Americans.

“I think my quality life was terrible.”

Assisting listeners with updates on her health, she stated: “Somedays I feel fine. Quality of life is okay right now. However, I’m still not the person I was for four years. 

‘It’s just stable in a really b****y awkward place.’

According to the campaigner, her low liver function and colitis mean she won’t be eligible for a clinical trial. 

She said she was ‘procrastinating over possible treatments’ during Christmas break.   

James received news that she had an aggressive tumour in her liver. She was admitted to hospital and had a tube placed. 

In December, her liver stopped working after the stent was fitted. 

At the time, she shared with her supporters how their hopes of a quick replacement had become a nightmare. 

She explained that “I am now at the mercy omagic medicine miracle” – however, she said it was always my fate and there is no chance. 

“All I have ever said is that all I desire are hope and possibilities.” 

James announced in April her return to cancer. After a pioneering treatment she had been able to keep at bay, James was forced into a 12th procedure.

A West London mother of two, who was a deputy head in the West London Police Department, was later diagnosed with incurable bowel carcinoma.

Her frequent statements have been that she is the only person who doctors thought would get this disease because she has always run as a vegetarian.

Deborah began sharing stories on how she had lived with the disease via social media and was soon known as “Bowel Babe” because she started writing columns for The Sun.

Deborah joined Rachael Bland and Lauren Mahon to host the 2018 award-winning podcast You, Me and the Big C at Radio 5 Live. 

Bland died from breast cancer tragically on the 5th of September that year. Steve Bland is now hosting the show. 


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

Deborah joined Lauren Mahon (front), and Rachael (right) in 2018 to host the radio show You, Me, and the Big C. Bland succumbed to breast cancer, tragically on the 5th of September that year. Steve Bland co-presents this show.

  • The West London mother of two, who was a deputy head in the West London police force, was later diagnosed with incurable bowel carcinoma.
  • Deborah was the “Bowel Babe” after sharing her personal experiences with the disease via social media. 
  • She was one of the three presenters for Radio 5 Live’s You, Me and the Big C in 2018, which her late cohost Rachael Bland created. 
  • Bland was 40 years old when she died from terminal breast cancer.
  • Lauren Mahon and Deborah continue hosting the show. Rachael Bland is joining them as well.
  • Deborah documented her many radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgical sessions on social media, as well as in her Sun column.
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

Deborah shared with her followers via Instagram that she was unable to dance during treatment.It is clear that things are moving in the wrong direction cancerwise. Photo: Deborah James undergoes a scan at Royal Marsden Hospital, London

  • CyberKnife was a targeted radiotherapy procedure that she underwent in 2019 to treat an inoperable lymphoma 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 
  • She has been using new drugs since last year as part of a study after her oncology staff gave permission.
  • Deborah explained to August that her recent scans revealed that her cancer had advanced in a’very rapid’ manner.  
  • Following the scan, she told her followers that she was taking a weekend off from social media to snuggle with her family.
  • A new, rapidly growing tumour was found near the mother of two. It had wrapped around her abdomen. 
  • Deborah will celebrate her 40th Birthday on October 1 
  • The mother-of-2 told her fans that her chemotherapy was working by October 18.
  • Days later, she was rushed to A&E with ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’