Much cleverer than I ever gave it credit for.
A few weeks ago as part of the launch for Stand Up To Cancer, I, alongside a fabulous bunch of Insta-mummy rebels, got the chance to look around the Cancer Research UK labs in London, and I found out just how clever cancer can be. I came face-to-face with the disease that is causing me the biggest headache of my life (and I've got two kids).
While I have the joy of dealing with stage 4 bowel cancer, this particular brand of cancer was of the breast variety. I was given the chance to look down the microscope at breast cancer cells, two million of them and I was consumed with one question...why couldn't I just kill them all, squash them under my heel? They are tiny, but these tiny cells are my nemesis.
And they're your nemesis too.
Today, one in every two people* will find these tiny cells grow into powerful beasts inside their bodies. For some even one stray rogue one will wage war on us, in clever David and Goliath fashion. Researchers at the Imperial Cancer Research UK centre explained to us just how clever cancer can be. Not only do some cancer cells rapidly double every 12 hours, they change shape, they mature inside us, they hide and our bodies welcome them as their own. No wonder in the 1970s, only one in four people survived for more than ten years after any cancer diagnosis.
As we got shown round the Cancer Research UK labs, not only was I humbled and left feeling pretty stupid, I walked away filled with hope. My future is there, my chance of seeing my kids grow up rests on research like theirs.
Today, because of great medical leaps, the number of people living for 10 years or more after diagnosis stands at two in four of us. But Cancer Research UK has set its sights even higher, working towards the goal that by 2034, three in four of us will live for another decade at least after the C-bomb has landed.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I set out to educate myself about the disease. How will I be cured, what is the latest research saying, how long do I have to live, what drugs should I be taking? Sure, I went overboard. I delved into medical journals, and for me all I found was bad news. You see, I have a mutation, known as BRAF, in my tumour. And the statistics will tell you I've already outlived my life expectancy. I found a funny comment on a forum called BRAF Club, last week. It said: "The first rule of BRAF club is NOT to Google BRAF." And it couldn't be more true. All I find is depressing read after heart-breaking case study, which only has the effect of plunging me into two days of darkness.
But, these statistics are based on yesterday's science, and things are changing fast in the cancer world.
I have to remind myself on a daily basis that there IS a chance I could be one of the lucky ones. I could benefit from some magical piece of research that's happening right now, in a lab somewhere in the world. My future is there.
My chance of living to see my kids reach secondary school lies with incredible, smart and passionate students and scientists like the ones I met at Imperial.
I pray every day that I can stretch myself out until that day when there is a magical pill to stop this disease in its tracks. Every day they are getting closer to understanding every little thing about these clever cells. They are discovering how they change, how we can use new treatments such as immunotherapy to support our own immune system to eradicate the disease. And they are getting nearer to finding out how can live long and fruitful lives WITH cancer rather than running screaming into our cancer caves. But all of this requires money.
Cancer Research UK states: "While we've made amazing progress against cancer in the past few decades, 1 in 2 people* will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, so we can't afford to slow down." And this is what Stand Up To Cancer is about. Since it launched in 2012, it's raised a staggering £38million. That's helped fund more than 40 clinical trials and projects which will involve more than 10,000 cancer patients.
Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I do believe with more funding (that's where we ALL come in) to enable more research this clever bunch WILL save lives. And I hope in my kids' lifetime there will be a whole range of discoveries that will hold cancer at bay for years.
I just pray I can stretch myself out to see that day. Please come join the rebellion and stick two fat fingers up to cancer.
Deborah James, aka Bowel Babe, is a deputy head teacher, mum-of-two and a columnist at The Sun online, where each week she shares her journey of dealing with bowel cancer. Deborah is supporting Stand Up To Cancer, a joint national fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 to accelerate ground-breaking cancer research and save more lives, more quickly. To support the launch of this year's campaign, Deborah, along with other social influencers has dressed up as her 'Rebel Hero', Boudicca.
Deborah said: "Boudicca, Queen of the British Celtic Iceni Tribe who led an uprising in AD61 against the Romans, for me was the ultimate rebel. She was from Celtic Blood - I too have Celtic blood through my father's family. She was flogged and scarred by the Romans and used these as a motive to inspire her tribe. She certainly wore her scars with pride. She was described as having long hair and a strong gaze, and wore large gold necklaces and bright tunics to be bold and intimidate her competition. She was considered to have greater intelligence and strength than most women of her time, with a competitive spirit in which she resolved to Win or Die.
"I know for certain she would have been shouting #cockoffcancer from her chariot!"
*Born after 1960Suggest a correction