Dame Deborah James's bowel cancer campaign 'saved my life', says mother-of-three

24 June 2024, 08:16 | Updated: 24 June 2024, 12:07

A mother-of-three has said how awareness campaigns by Dame Deborah James helped save her life from bowel cancer.

Lyndsey Ainscough, from Leigh in Greater Manchester, was diagnosed with serious stage three cancer after suffering symptoms for several months.

The 40-year-old only sought help after seeing campaigner Dame Deborah on TV "openly talking" about her symptoms in the weeks before her death on 28 June 2022.

Teacher turned journalist and podcast broadcaster Dame Deborah is said to have been instrumental in encouraging record numbers of people to get tested for bowel cancer.

Mrs Ainscough, who has children aged four, eight and 12, said: "I'd been getting quite a lot of symptoms during the COVID lockdowns and had bleeding, weight loss and fatigue.

"I'd seen Deborah James was on the news and she was trying to highlight her story. It was one day that it clicked.

"I turned to my husband and said: 'Those are the symptoms I've been getting, maybe I've got bowel cancer'.

"He kind of just shrugged it off with 'don't be silly, you're too young to have bowel cancer'.

"And it was from that moment that I actually decided to go and get checked."

Mrs Ainscough's GP sent her straight for a colonoscopy in June 2022 to examine the inside of her bowel - and she described the subsequent diagnosis as a "shock".

"It did not enter my mind for one minute that it could be cancer," she said.

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But now, thanks to experimental immunotherapy treatment, combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, she is free of cancer.

Mrs Ainscough said: "Dame Deborah helped save my life.

"I think the fact she shared her story of having children - I know they're not as young as mine - but she was a normal young woman with children, with this horrendous diagnosis.

"And it kind of just hits home that it can happen to normal people in all walks of life… it really doesn't discriminate. It can hit anyone at any time.

"Literally seeing her on the screen that day openly talking about the importance of recognising symptoms and not being embarrassed, urged me to get checked. I have her to thank for that."

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Dame Deborah's mother, Heather, said it was an "honour to hear the impact" of her daughter's work "through wonderful stories like Lyndsey's".

She added: "Through the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK, we hope to continue Deborah's incredible legacy by spreading vital cancer awareness and funding cutting-edge research that will help give even more people affected by cancer more time with the people they love."