Lady Deborah James has been hailed as a posthumous ‘inspiration’ at the age of 40, with many remembering her incredible life and work, from raising awareness for the signs of bowel cancer and undoubtedly saving lives, to the Bowelbabe Fund, which has raised more than £6 million. Cancer Research UK.
Her loved ones said in a statement that James, who was also known as Bullbaby, passed away peacefully among her family.
The presenter and activist, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, has worked tirelessly to speak out about cancer, make people aware of the signs, and fight stigma.
She remained optimistic and lived by her mantra of “rebel hope” through various operations and during rounds of chemotherapy – and by seeing the cancer return.
After she was transferred to hospice care at the end of her life, James continued her remarkable work, making a lasting impact on those who knew her and followed her journey.
You and I and Big C
The You, Me, and Big C podcast began in 2018, hosted by James, Lauren Mahon, and Rachel Bland. After Bland’s death in September 2018, the podcast was occasionally hosted by her husband, Steve Bland.
The BBC podcast heard presenters talk about cancer in an accessible and light-hearted way, with Bland previously telling the Guardian: “We wanted to create a space where you feel like you’re sitting with girls like you, having a cup of tea, talking about it like it’s EastEnders.
Big C and I have won many awards and resonated deeply with listeners.
A final episode, Deborah James’ Last Dance, was released in May and saw James talk to podcast producer, Mike, for the last time, after she stopped active therapy.
She said at the time: Please enjoy life because it is so precious. I can’t tell you, all I want right now is more time, more life’.
Shatter the stigma
In addition to her podcast work, James has spent every day talking candidly about cancer, urging people to move past any embarrassment they might feel about going to the doctor — because it could save their lives.
She appeared in several shows such as Lauren, where she topped the “No Butts” campaign.
Doing everything she could to dispel the stigma, James also appeared in an episode of Awkward Bodies to open up about bowel cancer.
She said at the time: “We are all poo, our favorite celebs are poo!
Let’s kind of break up and break that taboo because honestly, this is going to save lives. Let’s spread the word.
chart her journey
While many understandably choose to keep their health private, James has helped countless others by charting her journey with cancer on social media.
James was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in December 2016 and was declared cancer-free in January 2020, but later found out that the disease had returned and would require surgery, which made her undergo surgery at the age of 17.The tenth Tumor last November.
In May, James announced that she had completed active therapy, and continued to share the happy moments of her life, including enjoying quality time with her friends and family, launching her In The Style collection, heading out for a day out at Ascot, and, of course, the Damehood reception. Her and a visit from Prince William.
Sharing the ups and downs of her life apparently had an effect on thousands, as James was flooded with fan mail – even though no one knew her actual address.
As James said in an Instagram post: “As I am getting more and more sleepy and finding life more and more difficult, I have had more time to think that I have never stopped realizing the impact of our podcasts, talk shows, and campaigns for over 5 years.
Small conversations can truly save lives, small conversations can create ripples far from where we might see them, and seeds may grow where we never see their fruit.
When she launched the Bowelbabe box, James called it the one thing she knew she wanted to do before she died.
“Over the years I have always worked to raise awareness and money for the charities closest to me,” she said at the time. Tweet embed
As a result, a bowelbabefund is created and I would love nothing more than to help you thrive. Please visit the bowelbabe.org website for all information and to donate (link in bio).
All I ask is if you’ve ever read a column, followed my Instagram, listened to a podcast or seen me wear a poo for no reason. Please buy me a drink to see me out of this world, by donating the cost to @bowelbabefund which will enable us to raise money for more lifesaving research into cancer. To give more time to Deborah!
The fund’s initial target was £250,000, which was quickly passed. At the time of James’ death, he had grossed over £6 million and is now approaching £7 million.
James has also launched a collection with In The Style, which has seen her adorn her ‘Rebellious Hope’ T-shirts – and raise £1m for the Bowelbabe Fund.
The money raised will go to areas of cancer research that James is particularly interested in, including:
- Funding clinical trials and research into personalized medicine that could lead to new treatments for cancer patients, including projects in collaboration with partners such as the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden
- Continuing support to raise awareness of cancer, such as the ‘Not Younger Than Young UK’ campaign
James chose to spend the last weeks of her life spending as much time with her family as she could.
She moved in with her parents, Heather and Alistair, who helped take care of her.
James was married to Sebastian Bowen, and the couple celebrated their thirteenth anniversary in September 2021.
They welcomed two children together – Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12.
James previously said of her family: “For now to me, it’s all about taking it one day at a time, step by step and feeling grateful for another sunrise.
“My family is all around me and we’ll dance through this together, sunbathe and laugh (I’m going to cry!) every moment we can!”
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