After announcing that she was in the final stages of bowel cancer treatment, Dame Deborah James, a podcast host and campaigner, has passed away. Many people were touched by the infectious smile and candid personality of Dame Deborah James, presenter of BBC's You, Me and the Big C.
Tony Livesey, BBC 5 Live's presenter and friend of Dame Deborah, said that she was "one of the most remarkable women" he had ever met. "She was a remarkable person, with an incredible zest for life. Even in the face her own death.
James was 35 when he was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. He said that his entire world had changed after the diagnosis.
For 13 years she was married to Sebastien, a banker. They had two children together, Hugo (and Eloise) respectively. She quit her job as deputy head teacher to start writing a blog. This became her award-winning weekly column, Things Cancer Made me Say, published in The Sun online.
James rose to fame when he was named as one of the hosts of BBC's podcast You, Me and The Big C with Lauren Mahon, Rachael Bland, where he discussed the intricacies of living with cancer.
Deborah James, Dame: The Last Dance
A personal tribute to Dame Deborah James. We hear from her friends, colleagues, and fellow cancer patients following her passing.
You can watch the BBC iPlayer video now.
Livesey says, "They didn’t want to pussyfoot about it [cancer], and they didn’t want to use euphemistic terminology – they wanted it to be called as it was."
Debs didn't slow down the fun. You can see her social media: If she wasn't singing or dancing on the streets, it was because she was laughing at the cancer.
Listen to You, Me, and the Big C: Deborah James' Last Dance. She talks about how she stopped active treatment for cancer.
James was a Royal Marsden patient, where she had more than a dozen surgeries and received multiple rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She was also treated for experimental cancer.
She ordered a poo costume online while she was in anaesthetic after one operation. It was made for six-year-olds, but she would wear it while posting on social media and recording her podcast to raise awareness of bowel cancer.
She said, "We must break the poo taboo." "People are embarrassed and don't want talk about poo. But let's face the truth, it's something we all do."
Rachel Burden, a BBC journalist, interviewed James several times. She said that James was passionate about helping others with cancer and that he was also articulate, vibrant, and full of humor.
Burden says, "What struck me most was her ability to live her best life, regardless of whether it was dancing at home or making jokes from her hospital bed - always smiling and always beautiful, always truthful."
"She taught us how live and die. She never lost the joy she found in her love for her family and friends. She was a tremendous woman."
James' irreverent style made her popular - she had more than 100K followers on Twitter and almost the same number on Instagram. She had also campaigned for a variety of national charities, including Cancer Research UK and Bowel Cancer UK.
The Bowelbabe Fund was named after her online handle and it funds research into personalized medicine for cancer patients. It also supports campaigns to increase awareness about bowel cancer.
Genevieve Edwards, Bowel Cancer UK says that "She took a stage 3 bowel cancer diagnosis and turned the situation into an incredible force of good."
James describes herself as a keen runner and loves fashion, make-up, and jewellery.
Dr Philippa Kaye, a doctor and fellow patient with bowel cancer who was also a friend of James, said that "She was absolutely undefined by her cancer."
Deborah is a mother, campaigner and influencer. She also runs charity fundraising races.
You can contact BBC Action Line if you are affected by any of the issues discussed in this article.
James wrote F*** You Cancer: How To Face the Big C, Live Your Life and Still Be You. It was published in 2018. He also planned to publish another book, How to Live When You Could Die.
James stated that he had "some ends to tie up" in the final part of You, Me, and The Big C. "These include wondering if my novel will ever be published."
James' second book, "The Book of James", was published within days. Pre-orders quickly made it to the top of Amazon's bestsellers.
Source: NHS UK
James was declared cancer-free by January 2020. However, she discovered that her disease had returned and would need further surgery.
She said, "We knew it was going be catching me in the end."
James was 40 years old in October 2021, a milestone that she was told she would never achieve.
After a post on social media in which she stated that she had to convey "the message she never wanted to send", there was an overwhelming outpouring of support for her. Within hours, donations to her fund easily exceeded the initial target of PS250,000 and continue to grow.
James received a damehood from Prince William at her Surrey home, days later.
She went to the Chelsea Flower Show 2022 to see a flower named for her. She said that she hopes it will one day be part of her daughter's wedding bouquet.
James' Bowelbabe Fund has been helped by the white rose with its dark green glossy leaves. The donations far exceeded her expectations.
She said that it made her feel "utterly loved" and that she felt like everyone was in it together at the end.
Jon Kelly provides additional reporting