Podcaster and advocate Dame Deborah James, whose honest stories of life with bowel cancer triggered an extraordinary flood of donations to charity, has died, her family has announced.
A statement posted by her family on Instagram said: “We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Lady Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mother. Deborah died peacefully today, surrounded by her family.
“Deborah, who many of you will know as Bowelbabe, was an inspiration and we are incredibly proud of her and her work and commitment to charity campaigns, fundraising and her endless efforts to raise awareness about cancer that touched so many lives.
Deborah shared her experience with the world to raise awareness, break down barriers, challenge taboos and change the conversation around cancer. Even in her most challenging moments, her determination to raise money and awareness was inspiring.
“We thank you for giving us time privately as a family, and we look forward to continuing Deborah’s legacy well into the future through the gut fund. Thank you for playing your part in her journey, you are all incredible.
“And a few last things from Deborah …” find a life worth enjoying; tag risks; love deeply; do not regret; and always have a rebellious hope. And finally, check your poop – it might just save your life. “‘
The driving force behind the BBC podcast You, Me and The Big C, Dame Deborah brought the news to followers last month that she had moved into the hospice for out-of-home care.
The 40-year-old told them: “I’m not brave – I’m not worthy on my way to my death – I’m simply a scared girl who does something she has no choice in, but I know I’m grateful for the life I’ve had. “
Since then, James revealed that she had finished her second book and continued to campaign and inspire people.
Within 24 hours of bringing the news of her impending death, Mrs. James’ fans, as well as people all over the world who had been inspired by her touching and honest stories about dealing with bowel cancer, came had raised more than £ 1.6m. for research into the disease.
She said she had been “blown over” by the reaction.
The Bowelbabe Fund is currently worth more than £ 6.7 million.
After announcing that she was receiving end-of-life care, James continued to provide honest updates on her condition on social media.
On Instagram, she revealed that she was “less and less able to leave the house or bed” and felt “depressed”, but still continued to create memories with her loved ones.
Despite sharing the more difficult times, James continued to celebrate his successes.
Last month, she revealed she completed her second bookHow To Live When You Could Be Dead, which topped Amazon’s bestseller list and rose to number one through pre-orders.
Since she shared her update on end-of-life care, charities have also noticed an increase in people seeking information on bowel cancer.
Inspired by her efforts to raise awareness of bowel cancer, Marks and Spencer also recently announced that it would add information on signs and symptoms of bowel cancer for its toilet roll packaging.
Days after smashing his fundraising goal, Prince William turned James into a lady, visiting her at her parents’ home in Woking to personally present the honor.
She said she was “completely honored” that the royal had joined her family for afternoon tea, but admitted that her “cleaning and preparation went off the scale” as she got ready for his visit.
James was diagnosed with the condition in 2016 and has since kept her nearly 700,000 Instagram followers and podcast listeners updated with her treatments with unreserved details about her progress and diagnosis.
‘Thank you for being so strong’
Following the announcement of her death, tributes flowed to James.
Her mother Heather, whose handle on Instagram is Bowelgran, shared a series of photos of Dame Deborah and wrote, “My heart is broken. Love you forever.”
Adele Roberts, presenter of BBC Radio 1 and this week announced that she is cancer freeshared a photo of James on social media along with the caption: “My heart hurts. Thank you for everything Deborah.
“Thank you for being so strong for so long and helping others when you yourself were in so much pain. You are the best of us.
“Thinking of your family and friends, and I am eternally grateful to you for helping me and my family.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I am terribly sorry to hear that Dame Deborah James is dead. What an inspiration she was to so many.
“The awareness she brought about bowel cancer and the research her campaign has funded will be her lasting legacy. Because of her, many many lives will be saved.”
BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Stark wrote: “You so inspired man and did everything to the fullest. No one can do more than that. I hope we can get a gin wherever it all leads.
“Rest in peace Debs x.”
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer described James’ charity work as “really inspiring”, while Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner said she was a “tough, bright and radiant woman”.
In a statement, the BBC’s Director General Tim Davie said: “This is incredibly sad news. Dame Deborah James was a true inspiration.
“We are so proud to have worked with her on the BBC. The way she talked about and responded to her cancer, moved the nation, inspired change and undoubtedly saved lives.”
James was patron of Bowel Cancer UK and the charity’s CEO Genevieve Edwards said the former headmaster brought “warmth, energy and honesty to everything she did”, adding that she was a “mighty patron of Bowel Cancer UK and leaves a fantastic legacy through her BowelBabe fund “.
To bizarre costume
Her ‘poo costume’ post – where she recorded a reel (short video) of herself dressed as a poo to the tunes of Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy – became famous.
After first posting it five years ago, she repeated it every year to remind people to check their stools for signs of cancer.
This year she wrote: “Please share. The fact that I currently have a poop costume in my hospital room five years later (just for s **** and giggle!) Says it all about my love affair with poen . costume! “
James told the BBC she had gone to her parents’ home to die because it meant her family home in London could remain home to her children without the “scars of medical equipment” in their memory.
Asked what it meant for her to host the podcast, James told the BBC it had given a purpose back to her life after being diagnosed, adding that the show had made her realize what impact she could have “to save another life or make someone not feel alone”.
‘I do not want to see my children’s weddings’
The former vice principal said she did not know how much time she has left and that while the previous six months had been “heartbreaking” to go through, she had been surrounded by “so much love” and had “no regrets”.
And in a column for the newspaper The Sun, she had said that the “relentless medicalization” of her body has been “heartbreaking”.
James hopes the Bowelbabe Fund will continue to work on some of the things that helped her life, such as innovative drug research.
“Ultimately, what I really want to happen is that I do not want any other Deborahs to go through this.”
She added: “I do not want to die – I can not figure out that I do not want to see my children’s weddings or watch them grow up – that I no longer want to be a part of life that I love so much.”
James leaves behind two children, Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, and her husband Sebastian Bowen.