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‘I’m not afraid’ Tessa Jowell brings House of Lords to tears in heartrending cancer speech


The former Health Minister and Culture Secretary, told the House “I’m not afraid”, before her peers broke out into a minute’s clapping in a rare moment of applause for the House.

Her speech was the first time she spoke in the House since her terminal brain cancer diagnosis in May 2017, and members were seen wiping away tears as she spoke about the reality of being a cancer victim.

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

Using her speech her called for greater collaboration between hospitals in the fight against cancer, and to speed up active drug trials by testing more than one at a time.

“New adaptive trials can test many treatments at the same time. They speed up the process and save a lot of money.”

Less than two percent of cancer research funding is spent on brain tumors, Ms Jowell said, and as no new drugs have been developed in the last 50 years surgery is the only way brain tumours can be effectively fought.

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

The 70-year-old’s 15-minute-long speech saw peer wipe tears from their eyes, and give her a rousing standing ovation.

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.”