Dame Deborah James documentary leaves viewers 'sobbing'
Dame Deborah James documentary leaves viewers ‘sobbing’ as she’s filmed dancing with her son Hugo, 14, to Beauty and the Beast’s Tale As Old As Time and reacting with delight as her fundraising page hits £1million
- The BBC ‘s heart-breaking documentary in tribute to Dame Deborah James has left viewers ‘sobbing’ tonight
- Deborah James ‘ podcast co-host led the tributes to the campaigner in Dame Deborah James: The Last Dance
- Lorraine Kelly paid tribute to the mother-of-two, who died aged 40 after a five-year bowel cancer battle
The BBC’s heart-breaking documentary in tribute to Dame Deborah James has left viewers ‘sobbing’ after showing emotional family moments – including her dancing with her son and reacting with delight as her fundraising page hit £1million.
Dame Deborah James: The Last Dance retraced the mother-of-two’s five-year battle with stage four bowel cancer – which she sadly lost on Tuesday – through the eyes of the friends that supported her.
The 30-minute programme also included private moments the late campaigner shared with her family – such as her reaction to her Bowelbabe fundraising page reaching £1million, receiving treatment and dancing with her son Hugo, 14, to Beauty and the Beast’s Tale As Old As Time.
Dame Deborah, a former deputy head teacher and mother to Hugo and 12-year-old Eloise with her husband Sebastien Bowen, was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer in 2016. She lost her battle with cancer on Tuesday, her family announced, after weeks of receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ Surrey home.
She set up the Bowelbabe Fund to raise awareness and fund clinical trials and research into personalised medicine – and had initially hoped to raise £250,000. On Wednesday evening, it reached the £7 million milestone after donations surged in the hours following her death.
The campaigner’s closest friends led the emotional tributes to her in the documentary. Cancer activist Lauren Mahon, 37, who presented BBC’s You, Me and the Big C with Dame Deborah and their late friend Rachael Bland, broke down as she said: ‘I just love her so much’.
TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, who supported Dame Deborah’s cancer awareness campaigns, called her late friend a ‘smasher’ and said she would always ‘bounce back,’ which is what made her death so ‘difficult’ to accept.
The BBC ‘s heart-breaking documentary in tribute to Dame Deborah James has left viewers ‘sobbing’ after showing emotional family moments – including her dancing with her son (pictured) and reacting with delight as her fundraising page hit £1million
In one of the family videos shown in the programme, Deborah is seen dancing with her young son shortly after her diagnosis in 2016 (pictured)
The 30-minute programme also included her reaction to her Bowel Babe fundraising page reaching £1million (above)
Cancer activist Lauren Mahon, 37, who presented BBC’s You, Me and the Big C with Dame Deborah and their late friend Rachael Bland, broke down as she said: ‘I just love her so much’
TV presenter Lorraine Kelly , who supported Dame Deborah’s cancer awareness campaigns, called her late friend a ‘smasher’ and said she would always ‘bounce back,’ which is what made her death so ‘difficult’ to accept
Dame Deborah James: The Last Dance retraced the mother-of-two’s battle with stage four bowel cancer, through the eyes of the friends that supported her
Viewers were left overcome with tears as they watched the documentary, with one person saying: ‘Heart-breaking watch and a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. Will miss her.’
‘Just watched Dame Deborah James: The Last Dance. I’m sobbing. She was such an amazing person. What an inspiration. Life can be so cruel,’ another individual wrote on Twitter.
During the programme, Lauren Mahon and Steve Bland, Rachael’s widower, were overcome with emotion as they remembered their ‘best-friend’ and said they were ‘incredibly grateful to have had her at all.’
As she wiped up her tears, Lauren made a heartfelt plea to keep raising money for cancer research, because ‘we can’t lose any more Debs.’
‘Having relationship with people with cancer is really hard because you lose people,’ Lauren said as she cried. ‘There’s people and there’s Deborah and I can’t help but be incredibly grateful that I had her at all.’
She added she wished the campaigner could see what she meant to ‘so many’. ‘I just love her so much. We need to keep raising money because we cant lose any more Debs,’ she said.
Reaction: Social media users took to Twitter today to say they had been left in tears by the emotional programme
Steve Bland, who lost his wife Rachael to breast cancer in 2018, said Deborah was one of his best-friends, a ‘brilliant mum’, pictured left, while Lauren Mahon cried as she said she loved Dame Deborah and that having friendships with people with cancer is ‘really hard’, pictured right
After sharing her experiences on living with the illness on social media, Deborah became known as the ‘Bowel Babe’ and in 2018, she joined Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland to present the award-winning podcast You, Me and the Big C on Radio 5 Live
Deborah (pictured, far left, with Lauren Mahon and, right, with her brother and his fiancée) was made a dame by the Duke of Cambridge at her family home, with William praising her for ‘going above and beyond to make a very special memory’
Remembering her friend, with whom she co-hosted the You, Me and the Big C BBC podcast, Lauren said: ‘Deb just has this ferocity in her to make a difference and to make sure nobody else suffers the same fate.
‘Most people would just runaway from that, but Deb wanted to tell her story so it wouldn’t be anyone’s story. I’m really proud that we now talk about bums and poos on every channel.’
Lorraine Kelly, who met Dame Deborah through her campaigning efforts and launched No Butts campaign with her also remembered her friend.
‘I was looking at somebody with stage four bowel cancer. She was absolutely immaculate, always was. beautiful hair and makeup and perfect,’ she said.
‘And I couldn’t believe that I was with a girl who was living on borrowed time.
On May 9, the mother-of-two shared a heartbreaking ‘goodbye’ message to her 470,000 Instagram followers, revealing she was being moved into hospice-at-home care, while ‘surrounded by family’, because ‘my body simply isn’t playing ball’
‘All she wanted to do was get this message across, make sure nobody else went through the same thing as her, make sure that everybody had the information that they needed and to stop people being stupid about their bottoms,’ she added.
‘That’s what struck me. We started talking about bottoms and poo probably after 45 seconds when we met each other and I really just thought: “I really like you, you’re my kind of woman, you’re a smasher.’
‘The thing about it is, and the thing that’s so hard, is that she always bounced back, and I always thought that she would.
‘And that’s been very difficult because we just always thought she’d be here,’ the presenter added.
Resilience: Deborah James pictured with her mother Heather James two months ago after one of her most recent operations
In recent weeks, Deborah made the most of her time, going for days out, which were exhausting due to her condition. However, she remained positive, and posted about how much she enjoyed outings, like this one to Royal Ascot
HOW DEPUTY HEAD TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA STAR TRANSFORMED BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS
- In December 2016, the West London mother-of-two, a deputy head, was diagnosed ‘late’ with incurable bowel cancer
- After sharing her experiences on living with the disease on social media, Deborah became known as the ‘Bowel Babe’
- In 2018, she became one of three presenters on Radio 5 Live’s You, Me and the Big C, which was conceived by her late co-host Rachael Bland
- On September 5 2018, Welsh journalist and presenter Bland, diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, died at the age of 40
- Deborah and her co-host Lauren Mahon continued to present the show, with Steve Bland, Rachael’s husband, joining the duo
- On social media and in her column for The Sun newspaper, Deborah documented the many chemo, radiotherapy sessions and surgery she’d had since
In 2018, Deborah (left) joined Lauren Mahon (front) and Rachael Bland (right) to present the award-winning podcast You, Me and the Big C on Radio 5 Live
- In 2019, she had a procedure known as CyberKnife, a highly targeted form of radiotherapy to attack an inoperable lymph node close to her liver
- The pandemic’s impact on cancer services saw her campaign for care to continue as normal and, earlier this year, she launched the ITV’s Lorraine’s ‘No Butts’ campaign, raising awareness on bowel cancer symptoms
- Since last year, she had been taking new experimental drugs as part of a trial after her oncology team gave her the green light to do so
- In August, Deborah revealed that scans she’d had in recent days revealed her cancer had gone in the ‘wrong direction very quickly’
- She told followers she would be taking a break on social media over the weekend to ‘snuggle’ with her family ahead of more scans
- The mother-of-two said a new ‘rapidly-growing’ tumour near her liver had wrapped itself around her bowel
- On October 1, Deborah celebrated her 40th birthday
- By October 18, the mother-of-two told her followers her chemotherapy was working
- Days later, she was rushed to A&E with ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’
- In November, she revealed she is unable to walk for more than 20 minutes and remained ‘very weak’
- By December, Deborah said she was ‘not sure what her options were’ after her liver stent ‘stopped working’
- In January, she had five operations in 10 days after nearly dying in an acute medical emergency
- On January 25, Deborah returned home from hospital after three weeks
- On March 14, the mother-of-two was back in hospital as an in-patient after suffering from septic infection
- In April, she concerned fans with snaps after suffering ‘a rough few days’
- On April 14, the mother-of-two told fans she had been discharged from hospital but called the situation ‘very tough’
- On April 27, she told Lorraine Kelly that she had spent ’80 per cent’ of the year in hospital
- On May 9, Deborah announced she had moved to hospice care
Steve Bland, who lost his wife Rachael to triple negative breast cancer in September 2018, was also among the people who remembered her in the emotional film.
‘She’s one of my best friend and someone who, if she ever thought I was having a tough time, she’d be the first one on the phone,’ he said.
He added Dame Deborah was a ;really, really, really wonderful person someone that I’m so blessed to call a friend and so proud of.
‘Aside from all the money raise which was incredible, she was a brilliant mum, a brilliant friend and we’re gonna miss that so much.’
Reflecting on Debs’ social media presence and her fight with cancer, he said: ‘Deb would tell you that she used to get messages from people thinking that she would have it easy.
‘They could see her dancing on Instagram and they thought “how could that person be dying” or “how could that person have incurable cancer?”
‘They didn’t always understand how difficult it was for her.’
Talking about how the campaigner received a Damehood from the Queen in her last says, he said: ‘the damehood was extraordinary, even by Debs standard, we didn’t see that one coming.
‘She’s always been a dame, just without the title.’
BBC presenter Gaby Roslin, who was a close friend of Deborah said she couldn’t think of her without ‘her laughing and dancing and singing.
‘She did that the first day I met her. Cancer didn’t stop her having fun. She showed that through her dancing, through her sassiness. I loved her dancing,’ she added.
Gaby talked of how Dame Deborah was ‘overwhelmed’ by people’s reaction to the Bowelbabe Fund.
‘And those three cancer charity that she felt so strongly about are going to get that injection of money because of Debs and I’m sure wherever she is she singing and dancing away.
‘Knowing Debs that is exactly what she’s doing. With the biggest smile on her face,’ she added.
Emma Campbell, who has breast cancer and appeared in several of Deborah’s dancing videos, also remembered her friend as a ‘sexy’ and confident woman.
‘There is only one person who can get me to dance and it’s Deborah,’ she joked.
‘Deborah was an incredibly beautiful and sexy woman and I loved the way and was so impressed by the way she showed that side of herself and she didn’t ever shy away from it and if she felt like dancing around in a sexy underwear, she did, it’s just brilliant,’ she added.
‘And the essence of Deborah has always been that kind of radiance and that life force and that spirit.
‘The more I spent time with Debs and the more I observed the way she faced it, you couldn’t help being in her company or observe her and think “if she can do it, maintain that determination to live a big and brave and bold life, then so can I”.
‘She made a choice to document the good, the bad and the ugly,’ she added, ‘that’s what is so important for other people who are facing a diagnosis or might be going through something similar.
‘To share the skin reaction which was so painful and upsetting for her. The steroid high at 3am, doing an Instagram live because she couldn’t sleep.
‘The inbox being flooded from other people lying awake for whatever reason at that time.
‘When you’re going through a cancer experience, connection is everything, it can mean the difference between just surviving it or actually somehow living through it with moments of relief or even enjoying it at times,’ she added.
BBC journalist George Alagiah, journalist, who has stage four bowel cancer said Dame Deborah was among the ‘limited number of people’ he could talk to about his illness.
‘For all of us living with cancer, we’re all aware, we don’t want to become a burden, we don’t want to burden people too much.
‘There is a limited number of people you can talk to, and Deborah James is one of those as I found out.
‘To share my dilemmas, my fear, my wanting to cry with someone who had gone through that and was going through it that in itself was a kind of solace,’ he added.
‘Sharing is hugely important. When my moment came, I was looking for someone like Deborah James to talk to,’ the presenter, who was diagnosed in 2014, said.
In January 2020, she had explained that scans showed she had no evidence of cancer in her body at that point – with doctors suggesting she was ‘rewriting the textbook’ – but in April 2021, she revealed her cancer was back again
Despite ongoing cancer treatments over the last few years, Deborah continued living life to the full, holidaying with her family and dancing in the rain
The former headteacher (pictured right, with children Eloise, 12, Hugo, 14 and husband Sebastien Bowen) was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016
The cancer-fighting charity set up by Dame Deborah James has smashed the £7million milestone a day after her death was announced as Prince William leads tributes praising the fundraiser as ‘an inspiration whose legacy will live on’.
The Bowelbabe fund saw a surge in donations, pushing past £6.8m in the hours after it was revealed the 40-year-old mother-of-two had lost her battle with the disease and has now passed £7million and continues to rise.
In her final weeks, the presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C raised the huge amount of cash for research and was made a dame for her ‘tireless’ work improving awareness of the disease.
Dame Deborah became a patron for Bowel Cancer UK following her diagnosis and worked to raise money and awareness of the charity. All donations will be used to fund causes that were close to Deborah’s heart including funding clinical trials and raising awareness of bowel cancer with the help of Cancer Research UK.
Its chief executive Genevieve Edwards said her legacy would live on through her campaigning work and that she had a ‘special gift’ to connect with the public which showed with the sheer volume of donations from the public.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge led tributes to Dame Deborah today and called her an ‘inspirational and unfalteringly brave woman whose legacy will live on’.
Prince William cleared his diary and travelled to her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey, in mid-May to perform an honours ceremony at a tea party celebrating her extraordinary life.
The bowel cancer symptoms Dame Deborah James wanted everyone to know about – from abdominal pain after eating to shortness of breath
Dame Deborah James dedicated the last five years of her life to raising awareness about bowel cancer in the hope of saving lives.
Before her death was announced by her family, the London-based campaigner and mother-of-two fought hard to bring attention to the condition.
Even as her health was decreasing and as she was multiplying trips to the hospital for treatments, the former deputy head teacher put all her heart into her campaigning, from dancing dressed a poo to hosting her BBC podcast You, Me, and the Big C.
Throughout her campaigning efforts, Dame Deborah stressed that knowing about the symptoms of bowel cancer before her diagnosis could have saved her life.
Here, Femail highlights the symptoms of bowel cancer the inspiring Dame wanted you to know about.
Here, Femail highlights the symptoms of bowel cancer the inspiring Dame Deborah James wanted you to know about. Bleeding from the bottom, blood in stool, a change in bowel habits that last at least three weeks, unexplained weight loss, unexplained fatigue and abdominal pain could all be symptoms of the disease
Change in bowel habits and blood in the stool
Bowel cancer affects the large bowel, which is made of the colon and rectum, and is one of the most common types of cancer to be diagnosed in the UK.
The first symptom to look out for is blood in your poo. If it happens for no reason and is accompanied by a change in bowel habits, you should make sure to contact your GP about it.
Even if you don’t find blood in your poo, you should contact your GP if you notice a change is toilet habits, such as needing the toilet more frequently, or a change in the consistency of your poo, especially if it becomes runny.
Some people with bowel cancer report they’ve felt the need to go to the toilet more often, and never felt like it did the job.
If you feel like your bowels are always full, it could be another sign of cancer, because it could indicate a tumour is filling up the space in your lower abdomen.
In some cases, bowel cancer can cause bowel obstruction, which translates to abdominal pain after eating, feeling sick and abdominal swelling.
The NHS recommends that If you have any of these symptoms for three weeks or more, you should seek medical advice from a GP.
Persistent lower abdominal pain is another one of the main symptoms of bowel cancer. Always brought on by eating, the painful sensation occurs often and can be accompanied by bloating and the sensation of bowel being full.
Some people experienced reduced appetite as a result of this severe to extreme pain. While not all abdominal pain is a sign of bowel cancer, if the pain persists, you should contact your GP.
Unexpected weight loss
Unexpected and unexplained weight loss is another symptom to look for, as it might be a sign that the cancer cells are using more of your energy.
This is because the immune system works hard to fight the diseased cells. However, weight loss can also be caused by the change of toilet habits. If you’ve lost 10lbs or more within six months, and there’s no explanation, it is advised to flag it to your GP.
Constant and extreme fatigue is another possible symptom of bowel cancer. This is because fighting off the cancerous cell takes the body’s energy, but it can be a consequence of the stress the change of toilet habits cause of the body.
While feeling tired is common, chronic fatigue does not go away, even after a period of rest, and is often linked to an underlying condition that should be explored with a GP. This fatigue can also cause shortness of breath after very light actions such as walking or laughing.
Diagnosis and prognosis
According to Bowel Cancer UK figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
While it mostly affects people in their 60s, bowel cancer can happen to anyone, which is why checking for symptoms is vital. Treatment usually involves surgery, and chemo- and radiotherapy.
According to a 2019 ONS study, more than nine out of 10 people with stage one bowel cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.
These odds are slashed to 10 in 100 by the time the cancer has reached stage four. This is why catching the cancer in its tracks early on could help secure a better prognosis.
What are the risk factors for developing bowel cancer?
One of the biggest factor is age, because the disease largely affects people in their 60s. If you are over 50, you are more at risk of developing the cancer.
Your risk of having bowel cancer is also heightened if one of your close relatives had it. This applies to first degree relative, such as mother or father, brother or sister. The risk increases further is more than one of your relatives was diagnosed with the condition.
This is because about five to 10 per cent of all bowel cancer cases are thought to be caused by a change in a known gene. If a relative shares the same change gene, they might be more at risk to develop the cancer as well.
Having a history of developing polyps – small growths – in the abdomen is also a risk factor for bowel cancer. Polyps are benign and are very common, affecting one in four people aged 50 or over.
Some polyps disappear on their own, but others can be surgically removed. It is believed removing the polyps is one of the best way to prevent them turning into cancer.
While most polyps don’t turn out to be cancerous, some can turn into cancer if they are not removed, which is why screening for polyps is important.
Crohn’s Disease and gut health
Research found that there might be a link between Crohn’s Disease and bowel cancer. This is because diseases like Crohn’s or Inflammatory Bowel Disease create an inflammatory reaction in the bowels that could lead to the development of abnormal cells.
Research has always found that eating a lot of red meat and processed food – especially processed meat – will increase your risk of developing bowel cancer.
It is also more common for overweight or obese people to get bowel cancer, which is why it is thought that an unhealthy lifestyle is a risk factor for the disease.
The devastated family Dame Deborah has left behind: Husband who was her ‘rock’, her ‘unsung hero’ father and the mother who ‘relentlessly nursed’ her – as she wrote letters for her children, 14 and 12, so their memories won’t fade
BBC podcast presenter Dame Deborah James was surrounded by her close family as she passed away at the age of 40 following her five-year battle with bowel cancer.
The former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner, from west London, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2016, and was told early on that she might not live beyond five years – a milestone that passed in the autumn of 2021.
Sharing the news of her death to Instagram last night, her loved ones wrote: ‘We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy. Deborah passed away peacefully today, surrounded by her family.’
Deborah, parent to Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, with her husband Sebastien, had been spending the last few weeks at her parents home in Woking, where she passed away.
She was joined by her mother Heather and her father Alistair, as well as her brother Ben, who recently announced his engagement to his long-term girlfriend Ashley Hall, and her sister Sarah.
Deborah said she has written letters for her children to help them with their first dates and wedding days, and planned to buy Hugo ‘a nice pen or wallet or cufflinks’ and Eloise ‘Tiffany bracelets and earrings’ to remember her – as well as some presents and postcards from her for the future.
And her funeral is also planned where she will be cremated, but she said she hoped her ashes will be kept in the family kitchen ‘for a while’ before being scattered.
Here FEMAIL reveals the devastated relatives Deborah has left behind…
BBC podcast presenter Dame Deborah James was surrounded by her close family, including her husband Sebastien, as she passed away at the age of 40 following her five-year battle with bowel cancer yesterday (pictured together)
In March, the cancer campaigner was allowed out of hospital on day release to spend her final Mother’s Day with her family (pictured left to right, Deborah James, her mother Heather James, father Alistair, her unnamed niece, husband Sebastien sister Sarah, a second unnamed niece, her brother-in-law, her brother’s girlfriend Ashley, her son Hugo and her brother Ben). The tight-knit group are believed to have been by Deborah’s side when she died
The mother-of-two had often spoken of her sadness that she wouldn’t see her children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, growing up (pictured together)
Meanwhile her parents Heather (left) and Alistair (right) offered endless support to their daughter throughout her cancer battle, even opening their Woking bungalow to her to receive end-of-life care
The loyal husband who’s been Deborah James’s ‘backbone’: Banker Sebastien Bowen danced BBC podcaster ‘back into the light’ in her darkness moments – after cancelling their divorce weeks before her cancer diagnosis
He was the man she called her ‘rock’, her ‘blanket’ and her ‘very backbone’ after cancer made Deborah James realise how ‘special’ the connection she shared with her banker husband Sebastien was.
But if things had worked out differently, the BBC podcaster, 40, would have faced her five-year cancer battle as a single woman.
The pair, who married in July 2008, and shared son Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, were in the midst of divorce proceedings in 2016, before rekindling their relationship a month before Deborah’s diagnosis of incurable bowel cancer.
But the ‘bowel babe’ urged her City banker husband, 42, to find love after her death, with the caveat: ‘Don’t be taken for a ride, don’t marry a bimbo’.
Sebastien will now face raising their two children alone, while balancing his career as a banker.
Deborah James (left) is pictured on her July 2008 wedding day to banker Sebastien Bowen
The pair, who married in July 2008, and shared son Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, and were set to split in 2016 before rekindling their romance shortly before Deborah’s diagnosis of bowel cancer. They are pictured on their anniversary in 2009
Before her diagnosis, Deborah was an ambitious deputy head teacher who’d been brought in to turn around a failing comprehensive in Surrey.
It meant she and Sebastien, were always stressed and barely saw each other. ‘It was a classic case of our marriage coming last,’ she told the Daily Mail in 2020.
Dame Deborah James dead at 40: Poignant announcement from her family in full
The death of podcast host and mother-of-two Deborah James at the age of 40 was announced by her family on Instagram
We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy. Deborah passed away 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 charitable campaigning, 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 determination to raise money and awareness was inspiring.
We thank you for giving us time in private as a family, and we look forward to continuing Deborah’s legacy long into the future through the
Thank you for playing your part in her journey, you are all incredible.
And a few final things from Deborah…“find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo – it could just save your life.” x
Sebastien moved out in 2015 and they embarked on an initially ‘acrimonious’ divorce, both hiring lawyers and starting to see other people. Deborah even went on some ‘hideous’ Tinder dates.
They’d already had the decree nisi when they agreed to counselling, not with any hope of a reconciliation, but simply to be on more cordial terms for the children.
Then, to Deborah’s astonishment, the pair began having drinks, then dinner, after the sessions.
In November 2016, they made ‘a big step’ and got back together, only for Deborah to receive her shock diagnosis soon after.
‘Some days I crave the attention, just wanting to feel desired,’ she told the Daily Mail.
‘Other days, my husband can’t sneeze near me without getting his head bitten off. Understandably navigating that — for both of us — is hard.’
However, she said, ‘One of the good things about cancer is it makes you reassess your relationship. It’s crunch time. You think: ‘Do I really want to be with this person?’ And if you don’t, then it’s ‘Bye!’ as life really is short.
‘But cancer can also make you realise how special your connection is, and that’s where we are: in a good place.’
The University of Edinburgh graduate works for Pomona Capital, a Mayfair-based private equity firm and previously was a director at MetLife Investments.
In August, Deborah shared a sweet video of the pair dancing together in the South of France with a sweet caption thanking her husband for ‘holding her hand in the darkness and dancing her back into the light’.
She wrote: ’13 Years of marriage. My Rock. It was our wedding anniversary earlier this week. Some days the weight of what that means in an uncertain future can be too much.
‘Then it’s the closing of new day. A new day you are grateful to see. A new day you didn’t think you’d feel well in. And you dance. As your lids laugh and film. The sun sets, and you realise how wonderful it is to reach another milestone (and you park the sadness).
‘And you smile. And you are at one in the moment only. Because for any of us that’s all we ever have anyway. And you give thanks to have people in your life that are the very back bone you remain upright on.
‘Sebastien – Thank you for holding my hand in the darkness and dancing me back into the light. I love you. Always’.
Writing on his 40th birthday in 2019, Deborah shared this sweet picture and wrote: ‘Happy 40th to this brilliant man. So proud of you. Thanks for being my rock and my blanket. For being there in sickness, in health, in the fun times and the bad times. We love you’
Bowel babe’ urged her City banker beau to find love after her death, with the caveat: ‘Don’t be taken for a ride, don’t marry a bimbo’. They are pictured dancing on their anniversary in the south of France
Sebastien moved out in 2015 and they embarked on an initially ‘acrimonious’ divorce, both hiring lawyers and starting to see other people. Deborah even went on some ‘hideous’ Tinder dates, but later rekindled their romance
In November 2016, they made ‘a big step’ and got back together, only for Deborah to receive her shock diagnosis soon after. They are pictured at a festival
Sebastien will now face raising their two children alone, while balancing his career as a banker. The University of Edinburgh graduate works for Pomona Capital, a Mayfair-based private equity firm and previously was a director at MetLife Investments. They are pictured on holiday
Sebastien, who attended the £13,788-a-term St Paul’s School in west London has an impressive career with 20 years of primary and secondary fund investing experience
The couple often celebrated their anniversary and took moments to be romantic.
In 2019, Deborah shared a sweet picture of the pair kissing at a London bar writing: ’11 years ago today we ‘officially’ got married.
‘We then had our wedding a few weeks later in France so we normally celebrate then and @sebastienbowen always remembers the correct date (it’s the 26th!!)- but any excuse for a nice meal and a cheeky snog?!
‘I don’t do cheesy declarations very well – but I love this man very much so. Thanks for being my rock.’
The couple often celebrate their anniversary and take moments to be romantic (pictured in the south of France)
On another occasion she shared a picture of the pair kissing in Kew Gardens with the caption: ’12 years ago I said yes in this same spot’.
She often posted sweet pictures and tributes to her husband on social media, on his 40th birthday in 2019 she wrote: ‘Happy 40th to this brilliant man. So proud of you. Thanks for being my rock and my blanket. For being there in sickness, in health, in the fun times and the bad times. We love you”
On another occasion she shared a picture of the pair kissing in Kew Gardens with the caption: ’12 years ago I said yes in this same spot’.
Sebastien, who attended the £13,788-a-term St Paul’s School in west London has an impressive career with 20 years of primary and secondary fund investing experience.
How her parent’s love kept Deborah James going: ‘Bowel gran’, 64, who ‘relentlessly nursed’ BBC podcaster back to health ‘again, and again and again’ – while her ‘behind-the-scenes’ father ‘held her up’
Deborah’s parents Heather and Alistair were endlessly supportive of their daughter, with the couple welcoming their daughter into their home in Woking during the final weeks of her life for hospice care.
Her mother Heather, grandmother-to-four and mother-to-three, was a constant support for the former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner, who had been living with stage four bowel cancer since she was diagnosed in December 2016.
She was by her side during countless hospital stays, joined in with Deborah’s viral ‘chemo dances’, in which the pair would shake a leg to help the presenter get through another chemotherapy cycle, and cared for her grandchildren ‘at the drop of a hat’.
Deborah’s parents Heather and Alistair were endlessly supportive of their daughter, with the couple welcoming their daughter into their home in Woking during the final weeks of her life for hospice care
Happier times: Heather James pictured with her daughter Deborah James and her grandchild Eloise
Heather had ‘relentlessly nursed’ Deborah (pictured together), 40, back to health ‘again, and again and again’
Heather (pictured), grandmother-to-four and mother-to-three, was a constant support for the former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner, who has been living with stage four bowel cancer since she was diagnosed in December 2016
Deborah previously posted a video as she danced to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees in the garden with her mother while wearing matching outfits (pictured)
Meanwhile her father Alistair took a more low-key approach, and made fewer public appearances on her social media page – but in her final weeks, Deborah paid tribute to her father and spoke of her love for him.
Heather – who is a pre-school gymnastic coach – had also ensured Deborah’s fans are kept up-to-date with her condition, by sharing updates on her own Instagram page @bowelgran, and stepped in for her daughter when she was too unwell to make events.
One such occasion was to launch the ‘No Butts’ campaign alongside Lorraine Kelly, which aimed to raise awareness of bowel cancer on the Scottish host’s daytime programme from 19 April to 5 May.
Praising her mother’s appearance, Deborah said on Instagram: ‘I’m so proud of my mum today for stepping in to help launch the #NoButts campaign with @lorraine.
‘This campaign is something I’m so passionate about. So of course I’m gutted not to be well enough to be there in person (yet!).’
Deborah was equally full of praise for her mother on Heather’s birthday last year, writing online: ‘Thank you for everything you do for all of us, especially for relentlessly nursing me back to health, again, and again and again!
‘From hiding in my hospital room to ensure I get my drugs, to sleeping on the sofa with me when I’m scared, to cutting up my toast into tiny squares so I can just nibble them when not hungry!
‘To being there for my kids at the drop of a hat, and for being up for any form of dancing, fashion parade or crazy game I come up with! I’m fully aware where I get most of my ‘quirky’ traits from!
‘I’m hoping you can spend the day not worrying about me,’ she concluded.
The following day, Deborah posted a video as she danced to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees in the garden with her mother while wearing matching outfits.
In her final You, Me and the Big C podcast, released earlier this month, Deborah (left) emotionally said goodbye to her faithful listeners and revealed she had decided to live out her days at her parents’ bungalow in Woking
Heather has ensured Deborah’s fans are kept up-to-date with her condition, by sharing updates on her own Instagram page @bowelgran, and stepped in for her daughter when she was too unwell to make events, such as this Lorraine appearance on TV, pictured
‘It’s chemo dance time! You know each cycle I dance whilst attached to the pump,’ she explained in her caption. But with with my kids in France, my mum has stepped up this time! Seeing as she’s literally been nursing me every second for the last month, keeping me alive, I don’t think there could ever be a more apt routine!!’
‘Here’s to another chemo cycle and to mothers helping us through them,’ wrote the mother-of-two.
In January, Heather shared a snap to Instagram showing her posing with her daughter in a hospital bed as she explained that the presenter had undergone five operations in 10 days following a medical emergency during which she almost died.
She said: ‘How she does it time and time again blows me away. It’s early hours, but it went to plan.
‘The aim was to internalised her bile stent if it was working which so far it seems to be.
‘Obviously now she’s kept under close monitoring but she’s really happy (and emotional) because she has no drains for the first time in weeks.
‘We just have to pray she remains stable for the foreseeable future now. Due to the operation today, I was allowed to see her briefly as her nominated visitor – which I’m grateful for.’
Heather (pictured right) was by her side during countless hospital stays, joined in with Deborah’s viral ‘chemo dances’, in which the pair would shake a leg to help the presenter get through another chemotherapy cycle, and cared for her grandchildren ‘at the drop of a hat’
Heather continued: ‘Visiting in Covid is a really hard balance and it’s heartbreaking that families can’t see their loved ones more – I can’t imagine what families went through in full lock down (including in our own family).
‘Deborah certainly needs the support hence why I was allowed in, but risk has to be kept super low.
‘Mental health is so important though, we can’t underestimate how it helps with recovery. I see it with Deborah. I recall times pre Covid when I used to sleep in the same room over night!
‘As is usual she asked for her make up as soon as she came round which is always a good sign!’ She went on to hashtag the post with #MotherDaughter and #OneDayAtATime.
In her final podcast, Deborah revealed she had decided to live out her days at her parents’ bungalow in Woking to spare her children from constant reminders in their London home – and because she can’t get up the stairs to use the lavatory.
Meanwhile Deborah called her father Alistair her ‘unsung hero’, telling The Sun: ‘I’ve not always been a big one for telling Dad how much I love him, so take it from me, just say it. You never know when it might be your last chance.’
She continued: ‘He’s quietly there behind the scenes, making sure I am OK.
In her final podcast, Deborah (pictured with her mother) revealed she had decided to live out her days at her parents’ bungalow in Woking to spare her children from constant reminders in their London home – and because she can’t get up the stairs to use the lavatory
Meanwhile Deborah’s father Alistair was decidedly more private, and appears not to have social media – yet she called him her ‘unsung hero’, and said he was always ‘very calming’ acting ‘behind the scenes’
While Deborah’s father Alistair has been more private during his daughter’s cancer battle, her mother Heather often posts on Instagram
‘He’s always been a very calming, loving presence in my life — he’s very good at handling me and all my craziness. His patience knows no bounds.’
Meanwhile she added: ‘It breaks my heart knowing they are having to watch this, I can’t imagine what it must feel like.’
Shortly after an Instagram post was shared to Deborah’s page announcing the news last night, Heather reposted the image, saying she was ‘heartbroken’ by her daughter’s death.
The children whom she hoped to shield from the worst parts of her final moments: How dedicated mother Deborah spoke of her love for son Hugo, 14, and daughter Eloise, 12
In the final weeks of her life, a tearful Deborah James revealed that she planned her death and wanted to ‘slip away’ while ‘listening to her family’ after ‘one last cuddle with my children’ (pictured, with Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12)
The mother-of-two regularly shared posts on Instagram of her children, posting videos of them dancing with one another and enjoying the lighter moments of life (pictured, on a snowy day in London)
In the final weeks of her life, a tearful Deborah James revealed that she planned her death and wanted to ‘slip away’ while ‘listening to her family’ after ‘one last cuddle with my children’.
The former head teacher turned podcaster often spoke of her love for her son Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, and her regret that she wouldn’t see them grow up.
The mother-of-two regularly shared posts on Instagram of her children, posting videos of them dancing with one another and enjoying the lighter moments of life.
As her life came to an end, she said she wanted to die at her parents’ house in Woking, to spare son, Hugo and Eloise from constant reminders in their London home.
As her life came to an end, she said she wanted to die at her parents’ house in Woking, to spare son, Hugo and Eloise from constant reminders in their London home
Deborah said she had written letters for her children to help them with their first dates and wedding days, and planned to buy Hugo ‘a nice pen or wallet or cufflinks’ and Eloise ‘Tiffany bracelets and earrings’ to remember her – as well as some presents and postcards from her for the future
BOWEL CANCER: THE SYMPTOMS YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE
Bowel, or colorectal, cancer affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.
Such tumours usually develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.
- Bleeding from the bottom
- Blood in stools
- A change in bowel habits lasting at least three weeks
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme, unexplained tiredness
- Abdominal pain
Most cases have no clear cause, however, people are more at risk if they:
- Are over 50
- Have a family history of the condition
- Have a personal history of polyps in their bowel
- Suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease
- Lead an unhealthy lifestyle
Treatment usually involves surgery, and chemo- and radiotherapy.
More than nine out of 10 people with stage one bowel cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.
This drops significantly if it is diagnosed in later stages.
According to Bowel Cancer UK figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
It affects around 40 per 100,000 adults per year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Deborah said she had written letters for her children to help them with their first dates and wedding days, and planned to buy Hugo ‘a nice pen or wallet or cufflinks’ and Eloise ‘Tiffany bracelets and earrings’ to remember her – as well as some presents and postcards from her for the future.
The heartbreaking interview with The Times she also revealed how she will record letters for her children to open after she’s died, including advice for them on how to act on a first date or what to do on their wedding day.
Speaking to The Times she said the experience had been ‘hideous’, adding: ‘ My first thought was [that] I don’t want my children to see me like this. I didn’t think I would be able to speak to them without crying, but I’d love one last cuddle with them.
‘We have had a string of emotional conversations that have escalated very quickly from supportive care to end-of-life care.’
She said she was trying to ‘compartmentalise’ her death so that she could focus on her ‘to-do death list’ which includes making memory boxes and recording letters and ‘funny messages’ for her children.
‘I know materialistic things don’t matter, but I want to buy Hugo a nice pen or wallet or cufflinks,’ she said. ‘I’m going to buy my daughter some Tiffany bracelets and earrings.
‘They will have all the memories, but I want them to have a few presents in the future. I also want to write them postcards, but I have to be honest, I get really tired.’
She added: ‘At 12 and 14 I hope they will remember me, but [they are] still very young, so my image will fade and they will have to rely on videos or photos.’
Meanwhile in other interviews, she said she was devastated she wouldn’t see her children grow up, telling BBC: ‘I know that my kids are going to be more than looked after and surrounded by love.
‘You always want to know as a mother – are your kids going to be okay?
‘And my kids are going to be fine. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to miss every chance I could have had with them.’
And in the final weeks of her life, she said she hoped to protect them from the worst moments of her illness, saying: ‘I feel very strongly that I don’t want my kids to see me agitated and distressed.
‘I want to make sure they see me when I’m having a good days.’
Saying the ‘pressure’ on her young children was ‘huge’, she continued: ‘I want them to have nice memories.
Prince William said he found it ‘very difficult’ speaking to Deborah’s children Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, during the visit last month
The former headteacher (pictured right, with children Eloise, 12, Hugo, 14 and husband Sebastien Bowen) was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016
‘I don’t want them to take on the burden of having to care for me, massage my legs because I can’t walk. That would break my heart.’
She recalled seeing her grandparents when they were unwell and said she was determined that Eloise and Hugo won’t see that and will have good memories.
Last month, when Prince William met the mother-of-two at her parent’s home in Woking to make her a Dame, he said: ‘I met her children as well. It was very difficult talking to them about it but they seem to have been talking about the situation a lot.
‘That’s so important in those moment that the family talk and communicate about it and the children are brought into what is going on.
The siblings who offered some joy and comfort in the final days of her life: How Deborah’s brother finally popped the question to his girlfriend – while her sister never left her side
In the final weeks of her life, Deborah was surrounded by her brother and sister, whom appeared to bring some lighter moments to her difficult battle.
Her younger sister Sarah Wieczorek, 38, works as an Executive Advisor at Environment Agency and has two young daughters herself, while her brother Ben recently got engaged to his long-term girlfriend Ashley.
The family appear close-knit, with the siblings appearing to spend many of Deborah’s final days with her at their parents bungalow in Woking.
The pair frequently supported Deborah’s campaigning and fundraising efforts, sharing links to her blogposts and articles online, as well as running races in aid of Bowel Cancer UK.
Dame Deborah’s sister Sarah and brother Ben appeared to have been a source of strength to the cancer campaigner in recent weeks, with her brother announcing his engagement to his long-term girlfriend in one joyful moment
The mother-of-two posted a number of pictures with her brother and her sister-in-law to be on her Instagram page
There was some happy news for the family in the last month, after Ben popped the question to his partner Ashley.
Deborah shared the news online, writing: ‘Ashley Hall and Benjamin James have finally ‘put a ring on it’. I cried and cried…Even Prince William asked my brother why he hadn’t done it yet.’
Posting a gallery of snaps online, the mother-of-two wrote: ‘He finally put a ring on it! Congratulations to @benjaminrjames and @ashleyclairehall for finally getting engaged after 11 years!
‘If you ever followed my podcasts, brother banter features highly, and even Prince William joined in on the action recently!
‘The question to my brother has always been why haven’t you proposed! As a family everyone knew they both wanted to, it wasn’t like the it’s been off the cards it’s just always been apparently about ‘the right time’.’
She continued: ‘So they finally did it and then face timed me from Cornwall and then friends all afterwards – my mouth was still opened for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile Deborah called her younger sister Sarah ‘unflappable’ and said she was ‘always by her side’ (left and right together)
‘I couldn’t be prouder to be able to finally say that @ashleyclairehall will be my sister in law – I adore her. And she makes @benjaminrjames happy which is all that matters and vice versa.’
Deborah added: ‘Of course I’m sad I won’t see the wedding but it gave me an excuse to throw my last impromptu party (and I even sat at the table for a bit of it!!).’
Deborah told The Sun on Father’s Day she was devastated not to see her brother become a father, saying: ‘My brother will be the most amazing dad. I am so pleased he is engaged, I love Ashley and they are so happy together.
‘I have watched him with my kids over the years, and especially recently. He’s that incredible fun uncle, he and Ashley spoil them rotten.
‘And he’s wonderful with his godchildren too. It breaks my heart that I won’t see their kids, or see the dad he will be.
Quality time: In the final weeks of Deborah’s life, Sarah organised a girly sleepover for the family to enjoy together (left to right, Sarah’s unnamed daughter, Heather, Sarah’s second unnamed daughter, Eloise, Sarah and Deborah)
‘But I know, without a doubt, he will be incredible.’
Meanwhile she recently revealed he and Ashley planned to go on holiday to the US, and that she had faced a heartbreaking goodbye with her brother.
Speaking to The Sun just seven days ago, she said of her brother Ben: “He’s off on holiday to the US tomorrow. I have told him they have to go, they’ve planned the trip for ages. I also told him he must not come back, under any circumstances.
‘He says he’ll come home. It’ll be horrible saying goodbye to him. I can’t really think about it right now.’
It is unknown if Ben did travel to the US for his trip, or whether he will return to the UK following Deborah’s passing.
Deborah also credited her sister with being ‘unflappable’ and ‘always by her side’. The 38-year-old appeared to be a stabilising presence for Deborah in the final years of her life, suggesting trips out and about to cheer her up and create wonderful memories together.
In an Instagram post in 2020, Deborah wrote: ‘To my sister Sarah – who still whips me along – thank you for carrying me when I have no strength.’
In the last weeks of her life, she organised a girly sleepover for the family in Heather and Alistair’s Woking home.
Dame Deborah saved our lives: Cancer survivors praise the campaigner for raising awareness – as one mother says, ‘I realised if she could get cancer then so could I’
Dame Deborah James campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of bowel cancer symptoms as she battled the disease herself, and in the process saved the lives of countless others who sought an early diagnosis.
Cancer survivors from across the UK have thanked Dame Deborah for her selfless work, telling how they went to the GP after hearing her story during her regular TV appearances and episodes of her BBC podcast You, Me and the Big C.
‘Without her campaigning I wouldn’t have kept going back to me GP,’ survivor Teresa Whitfield said today. ‘She triggered something in me. And I’m now cancer free. She did save my life. I can only say thank you. Without her I don’t think I would be here today.’
BBC Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts, who this week announced she had been given the all-clear after receiving treatment for bowel cancer, was also helped by Dame Deborah’s efforts.
Saving lives: Dame Deborah James campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of bowel cancer symptoms as she battled the disease herself, and in the process saved the lives of countless others who sought an early diagnosis. The cancer campaigner has died at the age of 40
‘I truly believe what Deborah and others like her have done to get the message out – that bowel cancer can happen to anyone, at any age – was a huge factor in Adele’s symptoms being taken seriously and getting her seen for a colonoscopy as quickly as she was,’ her girlfriend Kate Holderness said.
Dame Deborah’s death was announced on Instagram last night in a post that revealed that she was surrounded by her family after months of end of life care at her parents’ house in Surrey.
In a poignant message to her 1million followers, it said that Dame Deborah’s final message to them was: ‘Find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo – it could just save your life’.
The campaigner’s Bowelbabe fund surged past £6.8million in the hours after it was revealed the mother-of-two had passed away.
She is survived by her two children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, and her husband Sebastien.
Here, a look at just some of the lives Dame Deborah impacted…
I THOUGHT ‘IF SHE CAN HAVE CANCER THEN SO CAN I’
Bowel cancer survivor Margaret Murtagh, 41, from London, told how listening to Dame Deborah James’ podcast saved her life after realising she was suffering from similar symptoms, which she had initially dismissed because she was a busy, active single mother-of-two.
‘If she can have cancer, so can I’: Bowel cancer survivor Margaret Murtagh, 41, from London, told how listening to Dame Deborah James’ podcast saved her life after realising she was suffering from similar symptoms, which she had initially dismissed
Full of energy: Margaret told GB News how Deborah had been selfless and full of energy, even as she fought her own battle with the disease. Pictured, the women at a charity event
Margaret Murtagh, 41 from London started experiencing a change in bowel habit and fatigue, she put it down to her diet and being a single mother-of-two.
It was around the time of the death of BBC presenter Rachael Bland, Deborah’s podcast co-host, who lost her battle with breast cancer in September 2018.
Margaret recalled how she kept seeing Deborah on TV and online as news outlets covered Rachael Bland’s death.
Did YOU seek treatment thanks to Dame Deborah’s tireless work?
Please email [email protected] if you would like to share your story.
It was only when she followed Deborah’s ‘Bowelbabe’ Instagram account and listened to the You, Me and the Big C podcast that she realised she was experiencing what could be the symptoms of bowel cancer.
‘It struck me really, really, really clearly. We were both of a similar age, with both had two kids, both lived in London, we were both runners, we were both healthy, we didn’t look like we could have cancer,’ she told GB News today.
‘I heard her story and I thought, “oh my gosh, if she can have cancer, then so can I”. That’s when I started taking my symptoms really seriously and I rang my GP the next day…
‘I was 38 when I was diagnosed, Deborah was 35. She made you think, “goodness, don’t just rest on your laurels and think I’m a runner, I eat loads of veg, I don’t eat processed meat.”
‘Don’t just assume that you’re healthy, that you can’t get bowel cancer because you can. It happened to her and it happened to me.’
Margaret was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer in January 2019. She underwent a colonoscopy and was later given the all-clear.
MY SYMPTOMS WERE TAKEN SERIOUSLY
Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts, 43, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2021. On Monday, she revealed she has been given the all-clear.
Survivor: Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts, 43, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2021. On Monday, she revealed she has been given the all-clear
Grateful: The DJ’s girlfriend Kate Holderness (pictured together) has spoken of how Dame Deborah’s tireless campaigning and fundraising efforts helped raise awareness of the disease to the point where Adele’s symptoms were ‘taken seriously’
Adele Roberts underwent colostomy surgery to remove a bowel tumor after being diagnosed with cancer. Like Dame Deborah, Adele Roberts has offered a deeply personal look at her bowel cancer battle via social media.
Following the news of the campaigner’s death, Roberts shared a simple post that read: ‘Thank you for everything Deborah.
‘Thank you for being so strong for so long and helping others when you were in so much pain yourself.
‘You are the best of us. Thinking of your family and friends and I am forever grateful to you for helping me and my family.’
It came hours after she was given the all-clear from the disease.
The DJ’s girlfriend Kate Holderness has spoken of how Dame Deborah’s tireless campaigning and fundraising efforts helped raise awareness of the disease to the point where Adele’s symptoms were ‘taken seriously’.
‘I truly believe what Deborah and others like her have done to get the message out – that bowel cancer can happen to anyone, at any age – was a huge factor in Adele’s symptoms being taken seriously and getting her seen for a colonoscopy as quickly as she was,’ Kate wrote on Instagram.
‘Thank you for everything you’ve done Deborah, and for what your legacy will continue to do.’
I WAS CLEANING THE KITCHEN AND STOPPED IN MY TRACKS
Mother-of-four Tracey O’Keefe, of Glasgow, was diagnosed with anal cancer after watching Dame Deborah James on ITV’s Lorraine in April 2018. She recognised she was suffering from similar symptoms and insisted she was referred to a specialist.
Stopped in her tracks: Mother-of-four Tracey O’Keefe, of Glasgow, was diagnosed with anal cancer after watching Dame Deborah James on ITV’s Lorraine in April 2018. She recognised she was suffering from similar symptoms and insisted she was referred to a specialist
‘I was just cleaning up the kitchen and I heard her talking about her symptoms,’ Tracey told Lorraine in a December 2018 appearance.
“I looked at her and thought she didn’t look like somebody who would have cancer. And that really hit home because I thought, “I have all those symptoms too”.
Tracey had previously sought treatment for her symptoms but returned to the GP after watching the Lorraine segment and insisted on being referred to a specialist.
When she was met with delays on securing an appointment, Tracey took matters into her own hands and paid to see a doctor privately.
She was diagnosed with a 4cm tumour. At the time of the interview, Tracey had received treatment and had a positive prognosis.
Tracey admitted she had been embarrassed to seek help because her symptoms affected her bowels.
‘I was embarrassed and I apologised every time I went to the GP. I went in saying, “sorry, it’s me again, I’ve still got this. I’ve still got a wee bit of blood, I’m still pooing really strangely”.
‘It was a change in bowel habits, different shape, frequency, everything – all the classic symptoms.
‘I had the weight loss as well. Like Deborah, I did think it’s because I’m doing more yoga and I’m watching what I eat. But I had a gut feeling.’
‘DEBORAH, WITHOUT YOU I WOULD BE DEAD’
Marketing consultant Teresa Whitfield, 41, lives in south London with her husband and teenage daughter. She wrote an emotional open letter to Dame Deborah, published by OK!
‘I remember having an upset stomach and blood in my poo on holiday in July 2018 and thinking, my body’s trying to tell me something. I put it down to dodgy food,’ she wrote.
‘But my poo didn’t look normal – more like undigested tomatoes – and I developed a pain on the left side of my abdomen. I didn’t know what the symptoms of bowel cancer were. It didn’t even register with me.
‘That October, I saw you raising awareness on the Lorraine show and the penny dropped like a stone. You spoke about bowel cancer so openly and a feeling of impending doom washed over me.’
Teresa was eventually diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer after seeking private treatment after her NHS GP failed to take her symptoms seriously.
She underwent an operation to remove a tumour and received chemotherapy. Now the proud mother-of-one is planning her retirement with her husband and looking forward to seeing her daughter grow up.
‘Dame Deborah, without you I promise I’d be dead,’ she added.
SHE INSPIRED US TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL
Bowel cancer survivor Dr Anisha Patel, of Surrey, was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in September 2018, aged 39. She credits Dame Deborah with transforming the cancer community and showing everyone how to ‘live life to the full’.
‘She stops us from feeling alone, we feel seen because of her,’ she told i. ‘She has showed us there is life for those of us living with cancer and she has changed the terminology around it.
‘Just because you have stage four cancer doesn’t mean you are terminal, it means you are living with cancer.
‘She inspires all of us to live life to the full and not take anything for granted.’
Dr Patel, a mother-of-two, said she thought she was suffering from new-onset IBS symptoms, including tiredness, some urgency in needing to go to the toilet and fresh blood on the toilet paper.
Shining light: Bowel cancer survivor Dr Anisha Patel, of Surrey, was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in September 2018, aged 39. She credits Dame Deborah with transforming the cancer community and showing everyone how to ‘live life to the full’
‘I finally spoke to my husband [a consultant Gastroenterologist] about my symptoms as I felt that things weren’t settling. I knew something just wasn’t right, and he suggested I should get checked by a GP,’ she wrote in a Bowel Cancer UK post.
Eventually Dr Patel was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. Since being given the all-clear, the GP has dedicated herself to raising awareness of the disease and frequently appears on ITV’s Lorraine to promote the NoButts campaign.
She paid tribute to Dame Deborah yesterday: ‘You will never know the impact you had upon the millions of lives you touched in so many ways. And the legacy you leave will continue to do so.
‘You have been the beacon for Bowel cancer amongst so many other things. And a pillar for our cancer community.’
You can donate to Deborah James’ BowelBabeFund here.
‘A truly special person who saved lives and did so much to help others’: Friends and colleagues pay tribute to Dame Deborah James
Tributes have poured into Dame Deborah James after her family confirmed she has died aged 40 following a long battle with bowel cancer.
Messages commended the mother-of-two for her inspiring fundraising, her ‘tireless’ campaigning and her incredible legacy.
The podcaster and campaigner revealed in early May that she had stopped active treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ home in Woking, with her husband Sebastien and their two children on hand.
In her final weeks, the presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C raised millions of pounds for research and was made a dame for her ‘tireless’ work improving awareness of the disease.
Her mother Heather said her heart is ‘broken’ following the death of her daughter aged 40 from bowel cancer.
BBC podcast host Deborah James has passed away following her five-year battle with cancer
Heather James, whose handle on the social media site is Bowelgran, shared a series of photos of Dame Deborah and wrote: ‘My heart is broken. Love you forever.’
Fans, politicians and celebrities also rushed to pay their respects to the inspirational campaigner.
Minister of State Michelle Donelan tweeted: ‘RIP Deborah James – a selfless inspiration. Thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.’
First Dates personality Fred Sirieix tweeted: ‘Deborah James passed away. Poor thing. RIP’
Meanwhile, Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘RIP Dame Deborah James, aka Bowel Babe. A truly remarkable and inspiring woman. Such sad news.’
Good Morning Britain host Charlotte Hawkins described Dame Deborah James as an ‘inspiration.’
She tweeted: ‘Oh no…heartbreaking news that @bowelbabe has left us. What an inspiration, a truly special person who saved lives & did so much to help others.
‘Who showed that even a terminal diagnosis wasn’t going to stop her living life to the full. So much love to her family & friends.’
Carol Vorderman also paid tribute to Dame Deborah James, tweeting: ‘Rest in peace @Bowelbabe. Your incredible spirit will live on.’
BBC radio presenter Chris Stark tweeted that Dame Deborah had been an inspiration for many.
‘Dame Deborah James,’ he tweeted.
‘You inspired so many and did everything to the fullest. No one can do more than that. I hope we can have a gin wherever this all leads.
‘Thinking of your family and friends and everyone that is going through similar. Rest in Peace Debs x’
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner described Dame Deborah as an ‘extraordinary campaigner’.
She tweeted: ‘Rest in peace Deborah James. What an incredible, fierce, bright and brilliant woman.
‘An absolutely extraordinary campaigner. Thank you for your rebellious hope and the millions you have inspired @bowelbabe.
‘Thinking of your many loved ones’.
TV presenter Julia Bradbury said Dame Deborah was ‘the most incredible ambassador of life’.
She tweeted: ‘Heartbroken that Dame Deborah James has died.
‘She has been the most incredible ambassador of life & cancer campaigner.
‘My thoughts are with her family & children. Such a huge loss. Your bright light will shine on Deborah.’
TV presenter Gaby Roslin tweeted: ‘Bye bye my beautiful friend Deborah.
‘You will forever shine so brightly. Thank you for all you did. For the laughter, the dancing and most importantly for all you did in your short lifetime for others.
‘My love to all of the family. Just so heartbreaking’.
Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, where Dame Deborah James was a patron, said the podcaster had turned her diagnosis into ‘an incredible force for good’.
She said: ‘We’re deeply saddened that our patron Dame Deborah James has died, and our hearts go out to her family and everyone who knew and loved her. Deborah’s star shone bright; she was a true inspiration.
‘She turned her bowel cancer diagnosis into an incredible force for good and through her tireless campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer symptoms, will have saved countless lives.
‘Deborah brought warmth, energy, and honesty to everything she did. Even during her most difficult times living with bowel cancer, she never stopped helping others.
‘We are truly grateful to have known Deborah and to call her our friend. She was a powerful patron for Bowel Cancer UK, and leaves a stunning legacy through her BowelBabe Fund, a testament to the love and admiration so many had for her.’
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