Since the beginning of her journey, Deborah James (Bowel Babe) posted 7,099 times across Twitter and Instagram and amassed over a million followers, sharing the most intimate details of her bowel cancer diagnosis. She celebrated pockets of joy and vulnerably shared the lowest moments of pain and loss.
As a beacon of truth for those affected with cancer worldwide, her advocacy and awareness mission has been captured by HCPs who share testimony of her impact.
Sharing her journey honestly (Podcast – you me and the big C)
- “Scan anxiety” and sharing the vulnerable details of her cancer diagnosis and prognosis
- Raw podcast with other cancer patients detailing experiences
This is a wonderfully frank discussion: the last 30 mins reflecting on the way people live with advanced cancer & choose their way to cope is pure gold. Thanks, @iAmLaurenMahon @bowelbabe @blandsteve & #YouMeBigC team.https://t.co/mN7ySLqidt
— Kathryn Mannix (@drkathrynmannix) July 6, 2020
- In sharing stories and talking openly, it helped others to recognise symptoms and know what to expect
— Jo at SHU Radiotherapy (She/her) (@SHURadiotherapy) April 3, 2019
- Being authentic about the “ugly” and “unattractive” parts of a cancer diagnosis, helping people realise those things are normal
Increasing diagnosis/early diagnosis
- Taking part in campaigns with HCPs to discuss the importance of seeking medical advice
It’s really important to speak to your GP or clinician if you have any worrying symptoms that might be cancer, the earlier these things are diagnosed the better the outcomes @bowelbabe pic.twitter.com/ONLeEiqKLN
— Dr Amir Khan GP (@DrAmirKhanGP) April 19, 2021
- She acted as a bridge between health professionals and the public in breaking down barriers and building trust to offer sound advice
An incredible person…. @bowelbabe . I’ve listened in for years to the @bbc5live podcast. Inspirational & thinking of you. I know our Hospice at Home services are incredible and @macmillancancer help so much. My patients see it.
If you see blood in your poo call your GP surgery https://t.co/DseNC8a2al
— Dr David Wrigley (@DavidGWrigley) May 11, 2022
- HCPs have thanked Deborah for the part she played in increasing awareness and diagnosis of bowel cancer
Not nearly enough attention has been on the cancer crisis, but nobody has done more to raise awareness than Deborah @bowelbabe.
I have absolutely no doubt that her openness and charisma has encouraged others to get checked, therefore saving lives.
Thank you. https://t.co/Gzn094LfCO
— Professor Karol Sikora (@ProfKarolSikora) May 10, 2022
Advocating for valuing life/cancer patients
- Notably, in an episode of BBC big questions in January 2021, Deborah had to defend the value of her life, and others with terminal illness, against Lord Sumption who had been quoted saying “I didn’t say your life was not valuable, I said it was less valuable”
"I didn't say your life was not valuable, I said it was less valuable". Politics aside, have we scooped so low in all this and lost our moral compass? #COVID19 @NickyAACampbell @bbcbigquestions #bbcbq pic.twitter.com/Z5wMcv2ukz
— Deborah James (@bowelbabe) January 17, 2021
- HCPs came to her defence, stating the necessity of equal care
I am disgusted that he can say that. How dare he? The NHS Core Values state that everybody is treated equally. We do not discriminate. I am so sorry @bowelbabe that you had to respond to such a statement. https://t.co/iSKLuRK7wb
— Zoe Grant (@VeryBusyMother) January 17, 2021
Building conversation about dying/palliative care/end of life
- She was able to share the news of her at home hospice care to her social media followers which was a catalyst to grow the conversation she had already begun about dying.
- Following this, HCP voices were amplified to highlight the process and place for palliative care
Today's episode of @BBCBreakfast is here https://t.co/xBRShODKDm
The item about @bowelbabe begins around 2h30min in. In it, I describe 'ordinary dying.' Yes, on national TV, and over breakfast.
More info about dying in my pinned tweet.
If you can, please support @BowelbabeF too. https://t.co/32T004RVPX pic.twitter.com/mvUfO4syLU
— Kathryn Mannix (@drkathrynmannix) May 12, 2022
- This is a continuation of the conversation she began many years ago: in February 2019 she allowed her son, Hugo, to write one of her columns for The Sun, where he talked candidly about his fear of his mum dying
— Deborah James (@bowelbabe) February 22, 2019
Fundraising (bowel babe fund)
- At the same time, Deborah launched the bowel babe fund, setting a target of £250K for Cancer Research UK. The fund has now surpassed donations of £6.6M.
- HCPs celebrated, dreaming of the possibilities of research with this amount of funding
— Dr Sian Williams (@sianwilliams100) May 10, 2022
HCPs and Deborah used social media to bring awareness to Bowel Cancer
In the year preceding Deborah’s announcement of at-home hospice care, HCPs engaged with her content, especially as she shared details of her chemotherapy regime. Central to Deborah’s content was the objective to build awareness around Bowel Cancer, including signs and symptoms to look for. In the Bowel Cancer conversation more widely, HCP conversation in the UK has shown to spike around certain campaigns and awareness events. Both Deborah, from a patient perspective, and HCPs, from a clinical perspective, have recognised the need for more awareness about the disease to improve diagnosis rates and therefore outcomes for prognosis, as reflected in their social media conversations.
Image Source: Bowel Babe Instagram