Woman says Deborah James’ campaign against bowel cancer helped save her life | intestinal cancer

A woman has told how health campaigner Dame Deborah James helped save her life from deadly bowel cancer.

Lyndsey Ainscough, from Leigh in Greater Manchester, only decided to seek advice after seeing James on television shortly before he died.

The 40-year-old, who has three children, told PA Media she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer after suffering symptoms for several months, but thought it was irritable bowel syndrome.

She said: “I had a lot of symptoms during the Covid lockdowns and had bleeding, weight loss and fatigue. He had seen that Deborah James was on the news and was trying to highlight her story. It was one day that she clicked.

“I remember I was in the kitchen ironing and she appeared on the news and mentioned something that caught my attention. And I turned to my husband and said, ‘Those are the symptoms I’ve been having, maybe I have bowel cancer.’

“He just brushed it off and said, ‘Don’t be silly, you’re too young to have bowel cancer.’ And it was from that moment that I decided to go get a check-up.”

James, the director turned podcaster who raised millions of pounds for charities with her campaign to raise awareness of bowel cancer, died in June 2022. She left her career as a deputy director and began blogging about her diagnosis under the name Bowelbabe in 2017. .

She then became a Sun columnist and published a book, Screw You Cancer: How to Face the Big C, Live Your Life and Still Be Yourself. She was best known for sharing her six-year battle with terminal bowel cancer on the popular BBC podcast You, Me and the Big C, which she began co-hosting in 2018.

Ainscough, head of attendance at a secondary school, made an appointment with her GP, who sent her straight for a colonoscopy in June 2022 to examine the inside of her bowel.

“I thought I was going because I had irritable bowel syndrome or something because I’d always had problems with bloating,” she said. “I didn’t really think about it at the time.

“I didn’t give it much importance, my husband was working and I didn’t ask him to come with me or anything like that. I really thought I was going to be diagnosed with IBS.

“My mom took me to the appointment and at that moment it was more or less confirmed that it was rectal cancer.

“Dame Deborah helped save my life,” he said.

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After receiving her diagnosis, Ainscough went home and told her husband, Christian, the news. The couple decided to tell her eldest son, Alfie, now 12, but felt their other children, Perry, now four, and Spencer, now eight, were too young to understand.

“The concern was tremendous, especially having such young children,” Ainscough said. “To be fair, (Alfie) took it pretty well at the time, but it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

“And telling my dad was also one of the hardest things to do because my dad wasn’t there and it was totally unexpected. Telling him was horrible.”

Scans in January last year showed he was completely cancer-free – immunotherapy combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy had eliminated the disease.

James’ mother Heather said: “Deborah worked tirelessly to improve the lives of others until the end of her life, so it is an honor to hear the impact of her work through wonderful stories like Lyndsey’s.”

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