‘Riding on the wings of science’: Looking back at Dame Deborah James' last interview with UTV Life

UTV Life 
May 4 2022
Dame Deborah James spoke to UTV's Pamela Ballantine in May. Credit: UTV Life
  • Words by Claire Njanina

“My cancer was caught late and I’m very much riding on the wings of science to stay alive.”

Those were the words that the late Dame Deborah James shared with Pamela Ballantine in an interview for UTV Life in May for bowel cancer awareness month.

The mum-of-two sadly passed away on Tuesday after a long battle with bowel cancer, aged 40.

Before her death, the prominent cancer campaigner urged people who suspected they had the symptoms to get checked sooner rather than later in her campaigns against bowel cancer.

  • WATCH: Dame Deborah James' interview with Pamela Ballantine on UTV Life

“It took me six months to get my diagnosis. I’m not saying for a second I can go back and change it, but my word I wish my campaigning will help people.”

She said: “I know through talking to people how important that early diagnosis is. Because when it’s caught early it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and it’s very curable. If people are not too embarrassed and they go early and talk to their GP, are honest and blunt about what their symptoms are, actually that might just save their life”

Until her final moments, the BBC broadcaster, worked tirelessly to raise awareness around bowel cancer through her podcast, “You, Me and the Big C “

She also worked alongside ITV Broadcaster Lorraine Kelly on the “No Butts” campaign which launched on ITV for bowel cancer month. They found that “every 15 minutes somebody is diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK.”

The initiative primarily aims to get people talking more comfortably about the disease and the steps which can be taken in the early stages of detection to prevent the cancer spreading..

She continued: “We need to smash those taboos. The reality is that actually we all poo and I can say that because even our favourite celebrities, our mums, our dads, our brothers or sisters everyone we know actually goes to the toilet and does a poo and the reality is that actually talking about it smashes it, demystifies it and ultimately it can save lives.”

  • UTV reporter Sara O'Kane looks at the impact of Dame Deborah's campaigning:

As part of her legacy, the cancer campaigner has raised millions through fundraising for Cancer Research. In May, she received her Damehood from Prince William, in recognition of her efforts.

Her brave and humorous approach in her cancer campaigning work has inspired and encouraged many people, especially those living with bowel cancer.

Dame Deborah has left a legacy which will help save many people’s lives long after her.

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