Inspirational Dame Deborah James’s message: enjoy life and watch our health

News Letter editorial on Saturday July 2 2022:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Dame Deborah James died this week, at the tragically young age of 40 (see page 17).

In a poignant message of her last words, the married mother of two pleaded with people to savour their lives: “Find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope.”

Many people will read that with a shiver, given how upset they can be by a parking ticket or a missed flight or an annoyance at work. Things that might seem important can pale into nothingness when it comes to life and death.

Dame Deborah added: “And finally, check your poo – it could just save your life.”

The medical and scientific and political battle against cancer has been a long and difficult one. It 50 years since the US president Richard Nixon launched ‘war on cancer’.

There have been major advances. Survival rates in cancer have more than doubled in that time. The local cancer expert Prof WS Lowry told this newspaper some years ago that long-term progress against cancer has been remarkable, but cancers such as pancreatic remain stubborn.

It is not just embarrassment that stops people talking about bowel or other symptoms but lethargy too. The top oncologist Karol Sikora says early treatment is often key.

The inspirational Dame Deborah James died far too soon. We are lucky to be left with her twin message of enjoying life, and monitoring our health.