‘You can’t see it’: Cancer mum shares glam shots pre-diagnosis

‘You can’t see it’: Cancer mum shares glam shots  pre-diagnosis

BBC presenter with stage 4 bowel cancer shares glamorous photos taken just before her diagnosis – to warn others not to ignore symptoms because they ‘look’ healthy

  • Mum-of-two James, aka Bowel Babe, was diagnosed at the age of 35 in 2016 
  • Now writes about life with cancer, campaigning for awareness of symptoms
  • In an Instagram story, she shared images of herself looking  glam pre-diagnosis
  • The campaigner wrote: ‘I would have had the Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – including the 6.5cm tumour – inside me in all of these’ 

Cancer awareness campaigner Deborah James, aka the Bowel Babe, has shared a series of powerful images on social media, in a bid to highlight how looking healthy  doesn’t mean your body is well.

The Deputy Head, 37, from London who co-presents the Radio 5 Live podcast You, Me and the Big C, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2016 and documents her ongoing fight with the disease on Instagram. 

Her recent post, inspired by the #10yearslater trend in which people share photos of themselves from a decade age, showed her looking well and glamorous in the months, days and weeks before her diagnosis. 

One photo is captioned: ‘When I look back at old pictures, I wish I had known the symptoms. Pushed to get a referral.’ 

She adds on another shot: ‘My point being in all the pictures I look healthy but I was pooing blood, was tired and had had a change in bowel habits.’ 

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Deborah James from London who has stage four bowel cancer, shared a series of images on Instagram this week to highlight how cancer symptoms are often dismissed if a person looks well, as the mother-of-two continued to do in the months, weeks and days before her own 2016 diagnosis

Mother-of-two Deborah, from London, included this photo – taken just a week before she received the devastating news of her illness – of her enjoying a glass of wine

The series, which includes a photo of Deborah and her husband the day before she got her results, ends with a black and white image of the campaigner just seconds before seeing doctors to be told her news

There’s a photo of her two months before at a party with her brother and sister, another holding a glass of wine just a week before her devastating results and snuggling up to her husband just 24 hours before. 

James writes: ‘I would have had the Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – including the 6.5cm tumour – inside me in all of these.’

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James was a co-host on the You, Me And The Big C podcast with Lauren Mahon, who’s in remission from breast cancer,  and Rachael Bland who died age 40 at the beginning of September from a rare triple negative breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2016.

Deborah co-presents the Radio 5 Live podcast You, Me and the Big C

Vowing to carry on with the work she had started with her friend, James told Lorraine show in October: ‘I miss her so much. Seeing those photos of her, it breaks my heart actually.

She told Lorraine: ‘What we did together is we put cancer on prime time. I am so proud to have done that. 

‘Her legacy and what we started, we’re going to carry on with it.’

Deborah, who has written a book ‘FU Cancer’, confessed she didn’t believe that she would be alive to see it in print and said that not knowing if she had a future spurred her on.

The mother admitted it annoyed her that people believed the idea you had to ‘fight cancer’ instead choosing to live with the disease.

Deborah added of the support she received from her friend: ‘She was the most positive, upbeat person, yet she died because of cancer.

Deborah with the late Rachel Bland (left) and their You, Me And The Big C podcast co-host Lauren Mahon (centre)

Deborah’s condition is currently stable, something she describes as ‘the permission to breathe again, the new window of hope that starts’

Candid: Deborah, right, endured a tough Christmas after her body reacted badly to a new drug being used to contain her illness

‘Rachael basically said “wipe your tears and get on with it”.’

This week, James shared the news that after a difficult Christmas in which her body responded badly to a new treatment, she was stable again. 

She wrote: ‘STABLE! Every Cancer patient knows that sigh of relief, the permission to breathe again, the new window of hope that starts. Never underestimate the power of one word. 

‘Yes I still have a challenge, yes I still have cancer, but let’s continue to dance through the rain!’ 

What is bowel cancer? 

Bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer or colorectal cancer, is a form of cancer in the large bowels, which are comprised of the rectum and the colon.

It is usually preceded by the growth of precancerous polyps in the bowels.

Bowel cancer risks include factors such as advanced age, inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and certain hereditary genetic disorders such as familial adenomatous polyposis. Diet and lifestyle are also thought to play a large role in the development of bowel cancer, with risks including the excessive consumption of red and processed meats, smoking, obesity, alcohol usage and limited physical activity.

It is typically diagnosed with a colon biopsy from a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. Regular screenings to prevent bowel cancer are recommended for individuals aged 50 years and older.

Worldwide, it is the third most common form of cancer and is generally more common in the developed world. Bowel cancer is typically found more in men than women.

Symptoms of bowel cancer generally include:

Blood in the stool

Rectal bleeding

Severe abdominal pain


Weight loss without any explanation

A dramatic change in bowel habits lasting three weeks or more

Loss of appetite

Vomiting and nausea


According to Cancer Research UK, all women (100%) and 95 out of 100 men with stage 1 bowel cancer are likely to survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they’re diagnosed.

This drops to 5 out of 100 men and 10 out 100 women when the disease reaches stage 4. 


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