Tessa Jowell brings House of Lords to tears with speech on cancer | Politics | News

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This is the first time she is speaking in the House since her brain cancer diagnosis in May 2017.

She said her speech was “not about politics but about patients”.

She ended her speech quoting the late Irish poet Seamus Heaney, telling the House of Lords “I am not afraid.”

Talking about the NHS she says the UK has the “worst [brain cancer] survival rate in Western Europe, partly because diagnosis is too slow”.

She said less than 2% of cancer research funding is spent on brain tumors, and no new drugs have been developed in the last 50 years and that surgery is the only way brain tumors can be effectively fought.

Ending her speech on a heart-wrenching note, she said she was “deeply touched” by Seamus Heaney’s last words, when he said: “Do not be afraid”.

She read out: “I am not afraid. I feel very clear about my sense of purpose, and what I want to do, and how do I know how long [my life is] going to last? 

“I’m certainly going to do whatever I can to make sure it lasts a very long time.”

People in the chamber were seen wiping tears from their eyes as she spoke. 

Her speech received a round of applause and a standing ovation lasting over a minute.

Tweeting about her emotional speech, Jeremy Hunt wrote: “Grace, courage & passion: what a moving interview with Tessa Jowell this morning. I’ll look carefully at her suggestions on cancer care & treatment.”

Yesterday speaking to BBC Radio 4’s BBC Today programme, she revealed she was surprised by her diagnosis as she had no “apparent symptom” she was ill.

She said: “I was diagnosed with an acute and very serious form of brain cancer. It came with absolutely no warning, absolutely none at all. I had not a single apparent symptom. 

“I don’t think I immediately leapt to the inevitability of cancer. I think that to begin with I thought I would have this tumour, it would be operated on and that would be it.”

The former Labour frontbencher was diagnosed with glioblastoma in May 2017 and was told no further treatment was available to have on the NHS.

Glioblastoma is a high-grade tumour,  a fast-growing malignant cancer that can spread to other parts of the brain and spine.

Despite the struggle, Baroness Jowell now faces in her day-to-day life it was not difficult for her to embark on a campaign to convince the NHS to change rules blocking cancer patients from voluntarily submitting to trial therapies and treatments.

She continued: “It is actually much harder now because now my life is day by day affected by the tumour.



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