Deborah James says she was reduced to tears by the “outpouring of love” after people donated more than £1.3 million in less than 24 hours to the appeal she launched as she revealed she was receiving hospice-at-home care for terminal bowel cancer.
The 40-year-old told followers on Monday night that she did not know “how long I’ve got left”.
While admitting the previous six months had been “heartbreaking” to go through, the presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C said she had been surrounded by “so much love” and had “no regrets”.
She was diagnosed with the condition in 2016 and since then has kept her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers up to date with her treatments, with candid posts about her progress and diagnosis.
And having set up the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK to coincide with the announcement of her tragic news, more than £1,360,000 had been donated by 3pm on Tuesday.
“I’m just blown away, I never thought we’d get to that number in 12 hours,” she told The Sun after her original £250,000 target was smashed.
“It makes me emotional to see the outpouring of love.”
“I fight daily to stay awake enough to complete a To-do list of things that I want to check off before I die”
In her final column for the newspaper, published today, she offered an insight into the “hellish” last six months she had endured and her recent physical deterioration.
“Sadly the last week has seen a rapid decline in my physical ability, meaning that my husband and everyone in my beautiful extended family have had to carry me around, from sitting, to the bed, to the toilet – I have no ability to use my legs or arms anymore.
“I have never known tiredness like it and yet I fight daily to stay awake enough to complete a To-do list of things that I want to check off before I die.
“My body is so emaciated that I have no choice but to surrender to the inevitable.”
But, she added: “In over five years of writing about how I thought it would be my final Christmas, how I wouldn’t see my 40th birthday or see my kids go to secondary school – I never envisaged writing the one where I would actually say goodbye.
“I think it’s been the rebellious hope in me.
“The small glimmers of options and far-flung chances that I’ve always believed in. Maybe, just maybe, I will be the one that will be the outlier and live forever!
“I suppose the reality is that I am still the outlier – so my story isn’t one of sadness it’s one of the extra years that I gained thanks to research and knowing that, because of my case studies, future Deborahs with the same rare bowel cancer, B-RAF mutation, might go on to live longer lives.”
Explaining her fundraiser, she had said that, with the support of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) all money raised would be allocated “to funding causes and projects that I really care about”.
These included, she said, funding clinical trials and research into personalised medicine that could result in new treatments for cancer patients, including projects in collaboration with partners such as The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden.
It would also go towards continued support to raise awareness of cancer, such as Bowel Cancer UK’s Never Too Young campaign.
In December 2021, James marked five years since her diagnosis, writing on Instagram: “I’m fully aware I shouldn’t be alive to write this today.”
But in a post on Monday, she said: “The message I never wanted to write. We have tried everything, but my body simply isn’t playing ball.
“My active care has stopped and I am now moved to hospice at home care, with my incredible family all around me and the focus is on making sure I’m not in pain and spending time with them.
“Nobody knows how long I’ve got left but I’m not able to walk, I’m sleeping most of the days, and most things I took for granted are pipe dreams.”
She added she had left “no stone unturned” in search of treatment, but that even a “magic new breakthrough” would not make a difference.
She added: “Right now for me it’s all about taking it a day at a time, step-by-step and being grateful for another sunrise.
“My whole family are around me and we will dance through this together, sunbathing and laughing (I’ll cry!!) at every possible moment!
“You are all incredible, thank you for playing your part in my journey.
“No regrets. Enjoy life x Deborah.”