British Politician Gives Moving Speech About Her Battle With Cancer — And Receives Standing Ovation

"For what would every cancer patient want? First, to know that the best, the latest science was being used and available for them."

On Jan. 25, former cabinet minister Tessa Jowell brought Britain's House of Lords to its feet after delivering a heart-wrenching speech about her battle with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) — a particularly aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer.  

Though there was hardly a dry eye in the room when Jowell finished her ten-minute oration, she wasn't there to garner sympathy from her former colleagues. Instead, the 70-year-old spoke poignantly about her health struggles in an effort to persuade the British government to back a new campaign called the Eliminate Cancer Initiative (ECI). Led by a professor from Texas, ECI links clinical trials in different countries in an attempt to improve cancer research and treatment.

Jowell used a portion of her speech to advocate for the campaign, which she explained, according to Sky News, links patients and doctors across the world through a clinical trials network, speeds up the use of adaptive trials and builds a global database to improve research and patient care.


It's this type of treatment, Jowell argued, that cancer patients such as herself need and deserve when battling the vicious disease. "For what would every cancer patient want? First, to know that the best, the latest science was being used and available for them," she said, according to the BBC clip above.

Though Jowell quoted Irish poet Seamus Heaney's last words — "Do not be afraid" — to intimate that she doesn't fear her own death, she did reveal being scared of a lack of action by the British government, explaining, "I am fearful that this new and important approach may be put into the 'too difficult' box, but I also have such great hope."

That "hope" Jowell mentioned comes from the support she knows cancer patients give one another each day. "They create that community of love and determination that they find each other every day," she said. "All we now ask is that doctors and health systems learn to do the same, and for us to work together to learn from each other."

After Jowell's speech, Lord O'Shaughnessy — a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health — indicated the British government must do more to fight cancer and help those it impacts. "It is the right challenge and one I'm prepared to accept on behalf of the government," he said, per Sky News. "Our efforts will not waver until the scourge of cancer no longer robs us of the ones we love."

As Jowell noted in her speech, her particular form of cancer is often neglected. Less than two percent of cancer research funding in the UK is reportedly spent on brain tumors, and, on top of that, the UK boasts the worst cancer survival rate in western Europe because it can often take people weeks or months to be seen by a doctor through the National Health Service (NHS.)

Still, it's important to note that a lack of funding for cancer research isn't just an issue that plagues the UK. A family in Florida recently released a photograph of a man weeping beside his dying granddaughter's hospital bed in the hopes that it would raise awareness for pediatric cancer, which according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, receives only four percent of federal government cancer research funding.

Thankfully, organizations such as the ECI and the Biden Cancer Initiative, which aims to develop and drive implementation of solutions to accelerate progress in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, research, and care, are doing their part to eradicate the devastating disease.

As Jowell said at the end of her moving speech, "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."


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.