Tessa Jowell receives standing ovation after delivering moving speech on cancer battle

Former Labour culture secretary calls for more collaboration in research after announcing brain cancer diagnosis last year

Lydia Smith
Thursday 25 January 2018 23:44 GMT
Tessa Jowell receives standing ovation in the House of Lords

Baroness Tessa Jowell received a standing ovation after she gave a moving speech in the House of Lords about her battle with brain cancer.

Hundreds of peers gave the Labour politician a minute-long applause after she called for more cancer treatments to be available on the NHS.

In May last year, Ms Jowell announced she had been diagnosed with a high-grade brain tumour known as glioblastoma.

“Less than 2 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,” she said.

Ms Jowell called for more international collaboration in cancer research.

“For what would every cancer patient want? To know that the best, the latest science was being used – wherever in the world it was developed, whoever began it,” she said.

“What else do they want? They need to know they have a community around them – supporting and caring. Being practical and kind.”

She also spoke of finding solace in the words of Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

“Seamus Heaney’s last words were: Noli timere, do not be afraid. I am not afraid, but I am fearful that this new and important approach may be put into the ‘too difficult’ box.

“But I also have such great hope.

“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.”

After Ms Jowell concluded her speech, members of the public and onlooking MPs, including the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, stood to applause.

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