POLITICS
25/01/2018 17:11 GMT | Updated 25/01/2018 18:13 GMT

Tessa Jowell Applauded By Lords For Moving Speech On Cancer Fight

The former cabinet minister is battling a brain tumour.

Baroness Tessa Jowell was given a standing ovation in the House of Lords after making a moving speech about her battle with cancer. 

The former Labour cabinet minister, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, led a debate on making vital treatments available to all patients on the NHS and was applauded for more than a minute by Peers across the house.

She spoke movingly about her own life-limiting experience, which began when she suffered two unexpected, violent seizures while on her way to a Sure Start event in East London. 

“Two days later, I was told that I had a brain tumour, glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM,” she said.

“A week later the tumour was removed by an outstanding surgeon at the National Hospital in Queen Square. I then had the standard treatment of radio and chemotherapy.

“To put it in context, across the country, GBM strikes less than 3,000 people in England every year. It generally has a very poor prognosis.

“But less than two per cent of cancer research funding in the UK is spent on brain tumours. No vital new drugs have been developed in the last 50 years.

“A major factor in survival is successful surgery. The gold standard is to a dye to identify the tumour. But it is only available in about half of the brain surgery centres in England. It must be extended to all of them.”

In an emotional interview with the BBC’s Today programme earlier this week, Jowell, along with her husband and daughter, called for patients to be allowed to opt for innovative treatments in other countries too in a bid to improve and extend their lives.

Parliament TV
The former cabinet minister was visibly emotional as she was applauded

Her speech went on: “Cancer is a tough challenge to all health systems, and particularly to our cherished NHS.

“We have the worst cancer survival rate in Western Europe.  Partly because diagnosis is too slow. Brain tumours grow very quickly. And they are hard to spot.”

The former Cabinet Office minister became visibly emotional as she added: “So many cancer patients collaborate and support each other every day. They create that community of love and determination wherever they find each other.

“All we now ask is that doctors and health systems learn to do the same. Learn from each other.

“In the end, what gives a life meaning is not only how it is lived, but how it draws to a close.

“I hope this debate will give hope to other cancer patients like me. So that we can live well with cancer, not just be dying of it. All of us. For longer.”

Her former cabinet colleague, David Blunkett - also a member of the Lords - said it was “a privilege” to hear her speech.

“We’ve both been on a journey through to cabinet,” he added.

“But that journey for Tessa Jowell has always been about support and care and reaching out to others.

“We are all of us privileged to be here this afternoon and to hear her speak, and to give us a call to pick up that cudgel and to work tirelessly to ensure what she seeks is carried forward for others in the future.”

Read Baroness Tessa Jowell’s speech in full here.