Dame Deborah James, the leader who became a podcaster and who raised millions of pounds for charity with her campaign to raise awareness of bowel cancer, has died, her family has said.
James, 40, stepped away from a career as a deputy principal and began blogging about his diagnosis under the name Bowelbabe in 2017. She went on to become a columnist for Sun and published a book, F *** You Cancer: How to Meet It big C, live your life and still be yourself.
She was best known for sharing her six-year battle with terminal bowel cancer on the popular BBC podcast You, Me and the Big C, which she began presenting in 2018. Together with Lauren Mahon and BBC Radio 5’s live news reader Rachael Bland, James created a show that received praise for his intimate, honest and lively discussion about cancer.
When Bland died of breast cancer six months after the show’s launch, James formed a presenting duo with Mahon, and they talked to famous guests, addressed practical issues such as hair loss and tried to create attention with characteristic good humor. During the 2018 Gut Cancer Awareness Week, James tried to destigmatize the condition by dress up in a “baby suit” – a poo-emoji fancy dress outfit the size of a six-year-old.
A statement posted by her family on Instagram said: “We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame 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 of 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 willingness to raise money and awareness was inspiring.”
James honestly described her treatments, progress and diagnosis to her large Instagram following, which rose from 300,000 to 500,000 towards the end of her life.
In a post on May 10, she said she had never expected to reach her 40th birthday or see her children go to high school.
She described how her health had deteriorated over the past six months and said she no longer received active care. She had moved to the hospice at home, where she slept most days and struggled to walk. She said she had left “no stone unturned” in the search for treatment, but that even a “magical new breakthrough” would not make a difference.
She wrote: “I never wanted to write the message. We have tried everything, but my body simply does not play ball. My incredible family [are] around me, and the focus is on making sure I am not in pain and spending time with them. ”
After announcing that she was receiving end-of-life care, she launched a fundraiser for cancer research, the Bowelbabe Fund, which has so far raised more than £ 6 million on her. The JustGiving page.
A few days after launch she was made into a lady, where Prince William visited her parents’ home to award her the prize for her information campaigns. A tweet from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s account said: “Every now and then someone catches the heart of the nation with their zest for life and persistent desire to give back to society. @tarmbabe is one of those special people. “
James’ second and final book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, topped Amazon’s UK bestseller list only on pre-orders. Memoir-cum-self-help volume shot to the top of the charts within a day after James advertises on Instagram that it was possible to reserve a copy. She also released a clothing line where the profits went to her Bowel Babe Foundation, saying her last goodbyes in a tear-soaked last appearance on You, Me and the Big C.
When she and her producer wiped the tears away during the episode, with the title Deborah James’ last danceshe thanked the listeners and encouraged them to keep an eye out for signs of bowel cancer – in her own distinctive way.
“Thank you guys for everything, for being our partners in crime at the club that you would never be a part of. I suppose that’s it from me. It’s a very sad thing to say, but I’m glad that I’m got to the point where I can say that and we’ll see each other again somewhere, somehow, dancing. Oh, and also: check your poep. I can not help it in other words. ”