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Dame Tessa Jowell: Cancer patient takes solace in words of Seamus Heaney

Former cabinet minister Dame Tessa Jowell has been diagnosed with brain cancer. Picture from BBC/Press Association
Arj Singh, Press Association Political Correspondent

A FORMER cabinet minister diagnosed with brain cancer has said she has taken solace from the late Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney.

Labour peer Dame Tessa Jowell told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the Co Derry poet's words had affected her.

"I was deeply touched by Seamus Heaney's last words when he said 'do not be afraid'," she said.

"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 it's going to last? I'm certainly going to do everything I can to make it a very long time."

Baroness Jowell was one of the Labour Party's best known faces during Tony Blair's era and was hailed as the woman who brought the Olympics back to Britain as culture secretary.

She said cancer patients should be free to take the risk of undergoing innovative treatments on the NHS.

Dame Tessa called for more opportunities for "adaptive trials" in which patients can undergo different treatments and if one does not work they can immediately move on to the next.

The Labour peer said she was "absolutely 100%" focused on staying alive as she prepared to deliver a speech to the House of Lords today on making new cancer treatments available through the NHS.

Explaining adaptive trials in her first interview on cancer since being diagnosed with brain tumour known as glioblastoma last May, Dame Tessa said the trials are "exactly the kind of risk that patients should be free to take, it should be a risk that they have the chance to take, and it's certainly what somebody like me wants".

Dame Tessa has been treated in London on the NHS but had advice from the US and consulted a doctor in Germany.

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