A bowel cancer survivor has revealed how Deborah James helped her cope with her diagnosis after her symptoms were initially mistaken for constipation.
Emma Campbell, 38, from Newcastle, first started showing symptoms of bowel cancer in February 2019, during her third pregnancy, when she started suffering from excruciating abdominal pain which she described as being like contractions.
The skincare business owner continued to experience pain flare-ups until she spotted an advert for a bowel cancer test, which she credits with saving her life.
“I started to feel unwell and had overwhelming pain in an area of my stomach," she explains.
“It would come in waves and it felt almost like contractions."
After a visit to A&E, Campbell was prescribed laxatives, with doctors suspecting she may suffering from pregnancy-related constipation.
Though the pain died down for a while Campbell says it flared up again in the September after her daughter, Krista, now two, was born.
Watch: Lorraine speaks about visiting Deborah James in hospital
By October, the mum was struggling with gurgling painful stomach aches, which she put down to food poisoning, until she came across a Facebook advert for an at-home bowel cancer kit.
“It cost around £40, so I decided to buy it," she explains.
“I kept it hidden for a while, as I thought that people would think I was being a bit silly, but I wanted to cross out the worst-case scenario and decided to do a stool sample for peace of mind.
“I sent it off, and I received an email a few weeks later telling me to go visit my GP immediately, as my stool had elevated levels of blood."
Having booked an appointment, Campbell was surprised to learn that her doctor didn't seem concerned by the results, so pushed for further tests.
In February 2020 she booked in for a colonoscopy in a private clinic and it was there where she was diagnosed with bowel cancer, with a further CT scan revealing it had also spread to her liver.
“I was in complete shock, and I find it hard to remember much from the day as I just sort of went into survival mode," she explains.
Campbell credits Deborah James with helping her to cope with her bowel cancer diagnosis.
The 40-year-old cancer campaigner and mother-of-two has raised more than £2.5M for charity in less than two days after telling her followers she had moved into hospice care at her parents' home, surrounded by her family.
Speaking about the support that James provided Campbell says: “Deborah was someone who I had seen on Instagram from the very start of my diagnosis.
“She aided me through my cancer journey, I felt so inspired by her, she made me feel less alone.
“I got to meet her on Lorraine whilst discussing our diagnosis’ last year, and she was incredible."
Campbell says news about James' end-of-life care has hit the entire bowel cancer community really hard.
“She’s our patron, she’s been fighting so hard for so long to make more people and medical professionals aware that bowel cancer can affect anyone.
“It’s absolutely devastating.”
Campbell has now been cancer-free in her bowel for the past year, after having nine rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove the remaining tumour.
She is set to have a surgery this May to remove any remaining cancerous cells in her liver.
The mum-of-three now hopes to raise more awareness about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer and is urging anyone to insist on a stool test if they have concerns.
She has also raised thousands for Bowel Cancer UK during a trek up Kilimanjaro.
“Bowel cancer can happen to anyone, and there’s been a rising trend in it happening to those under 40," she says.
“More money also needs to be raised in order to find a cure," she adds. "We don’t want something that can just extend our lives, we want bowel cancer to have a complete cure.”
Additional reporting Caters.