Dame Tessa Jowell has spoken openly in a new interview with the BBC’s Today Programme about her devastating diagnosis of brain cancer in May 2016.
The former Labour minister was diagnosed with a high-grade brain tumour, glioblastoma, just under two years ago, but spoke candidly about now living with a “sense of purpose” despite her illness.
Speaking about the moment she was diagnosed with the disease, she admitted, “It came with absolutely no expectation. None at all. I had not a single apparent symptom.”
The 70-year-old also revealed that she would be delivering a speech on Parliament, her old stomping ground, in order to give her opinion on what needs to be done to help other cancer sufferers.
Discussing her determination to raise awareness of brain tumours, she shared, “This is something I feel a tremendous amount of mission about.”
She continued to share that she wanted a change to the way research into brain cancer is carried out, addressing the idea of ‘adaptive trails’. Adaptive trials would allow cancer researchers to try more than one type of treatment at a time, which Tessa confesses would “make the pace of change happen very quickly”.
Continuing, Tessa also spoke about how much harder her battle with cancer has been than she ever expected.
“I don’t think I immediately leapt to the inevitability of cancer. To begin with, I thought that I would have this tumour, that it would be operated on, and that that would be it.
“It’s actually much harder now, because now my life is, day-by-day, affected by tumour.”
Dame Tessa also shared a moving sentiment about her battle with the disease, from the speech she is set to read in Parliament.
Referencing words from poet Seamus Heeney, Tessa said “He said, ‘I am not afraid’. And I am not afraid. I feel very clear about my sense of purpose and what I want to do.
“How do I know how long it’s going to last? I’m certainly going to do everything I can to make it a very long time.”
Tessa is also mother-in-law to popular food writer Ella Mills [nee Woodward], otherwise known as Deliciously Ella. Ella married Tessa’s
son, Matthew Mills, in April 2016.
Ella tweeted in support of her mother-in-law ahead of the interview, writing, “My amazing mother in law on Radio 4 this morning, opening up about her journey with brain cancer. Tune in at 8.10 if you can xxx”.
Fans also flocked to social media to share their words of support and admiration for Tessa following the revealing interview.
One wrote, “What a brave woman, great that she is raising awareness”, while another said, “So sad but her bravery, dignity & courage are admirable. An inspirational lady! I hope she fights on for a long time.”
(Tessa speaking in Parliament in 2013)
A third user commented, “Very moving- watched my father deal with #glioblastoma – so very hard ” while a fourth agreed, “Found this very moving and that Dame Tessa Jowell is brave beyond words #r4today”.
Some of Tessa’s former fellow government ministers also took to Twitter to share their support for the former MP.
Jeremy Corbyn wrote, “So brave and important for Tessa Jowell to speak about how her brain tumour has affected her. On behalf of the whole Labour Party, I send support and solidarity to Tessa ahead of her speech in the House of Lords today.”
While MP Yvette Cooper said, “Moving interview with the wonderful @TessaJowell – sending her much love & huge admiration”
Sarah Jones also shared, “Listening to my former boss @TessaJowell – such utter bravery and relentless postivity in the face of such horror. I hope I can be half that brave.”