Dame Deborah James raised a staggering £11.3million in final seven weeks of her life | The Sun
DAME Deborah James raised a staggering £11.3million in the final seven weeks of her life, her family today revealed.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, her husband Sebastien Bowen said: “Deborah would be utterly blown away, I can hear her saying, ‘Wow, this is such a big deal’.
“This money is going to have a huge impact, and will hopefully go on to save many lives. I know she would be incredibly proud of that.
“The kids and I are immensely proud.”
In previously unseen footage recorded just before she died, Dame Debs herself thanks the more than 330,000 people who have donated.
“Every penny counts. I cannot thank you enough for your support.
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"You are awesome,” she said.
Given just days to live, Deborah launched the Bowelbabe Fund on May 9, with the aim of raising £250,000, to fund vital research “to give one final f*** you to cancer, and give more Deborahs more time”.
The inspirational campaigner captured the hearts of the nation, smashing her target in a day.
Seven weeks later when she died on June 28, the Fund total stood at almost £7million.
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Knowing one of Dame Debs’ final wishes was to see it hit £10million, The Sun urged readers to donate in her memory.
Today to mark Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Debs’ family revealed the 40-year-old has raised £11.3million so far.
A spokesperson for Prince William, who visited Deborah at her parent’s home in Woking to honour her with a Damehood, said: “This is a truly fantastic milestone.
“Thanks to the generosity of so many, the impact and legacy of Dame Deborah’s life will be felt for many years to come.”
Meanwhile Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised Dame Debs’ “tireless campaigning to educate us all about bowel cancer”.
“Dame Deborah brought honesty, she brought glamour but most of all she brought with her a key message to raise awareness, which has no doubt saved lives,” he said.
“Deborah’s legacy lives on, that ‘rebellious hope’ she told us all to have is not only smashing funding targets but continuing to save lives.
“Thank you BowelBabe and to all those who have donated.”
Almost ten months after their mum died, Seb said seeing what Deborah achieved has left their children Hugo, 15 and Eloise, 13, with an overwhelming sense of pride.
“The kids and I are immensely proud of their mum and her legacy, and they’re really excited about the projects we are funding,” Seb said.
“We had lots of ideas over the summer about how we can continue to raise money, and they are really keen to be involved in it.
“We don’t want it to be a one-off thing, we’re constantly brainstorming ideas.
"Eloise has held a fundraiser at school, and they’re determined to help keep the momentum going.”
Speaking from the family home in London, Seb said the Bowelbabe Fund has been the “light in the dark”, for the whole family.
“The last year of Deborah’s life was incredibly difficult, there was a lot of sadness,” he said.
“It has been a massive roller coaster, but the Fund has been a really positive thing to focus on.
“For the kids, it’s a way to hold onto their mum’s positive streak.
“Deborah was very clear she didn’t want her story to be one of sadness, she said it herself in her final Sun column – she wanted it to be a positive story.
“Scientific advances kept her alive when the statistics said she should be dead, so she truly believed she was riding on the wings of science.
“She was adamant that this Fund was her way of doing that for others, and she wanted her legacy to inspire other people to do all they can to prevent this horrible disease.”
The first £4million will go to fund five different projects in partnership with Cancer Research UK, The Institute of Cancer Research, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and Bowel Cancer UK – all causes close to Dame Debs’ heart.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of CRUK said: “Dame Deborah was a force of nature.
“We’re deeply honoured to be working with Deborah’s family, the Fund will be fuelled by Deborah’s spirit of rebellious hope.
“The projects announced today are the first step to continuing Deborah’s legacy to bring hope for a better future for people affected by cancer.”
They include work to develop a new AI blood test to detect cancer early, a mathematical study to discover how cancer spreads and a study to investigate the role the gut microbiome might play in causing bowel cancer.
They would all really appeal to the “science geek in Deborah”, her brother Ben, told The Sun.
Meanwhile, the money will also help fund a new interventional radiology machine at The Royal Marsden.
“This machine, and Dr Nicos Fotiadis, saved Deborah’s life countless times, helping to blast tumours that were inoperable,” said Seb.
“It means a huge amount to us that we are able to give more patients access to this cutting-edge treatment.”
The final project, working with Bowel Cancer UK, will fund a series of awareness roadshows to continue Dame Debs’ incredible work to smash taboos, and urge more people to ‘Check your poo!’.
“These projects were all very carefully selected, they all really speak to Deborah’s legacy,” Seb said.
“We spent a lot of time, the whole family, speaking to doctors, oncologists, surgeons, scientists and other experts to decide where the money could have the biggest impact.”
For Seb, the most exciting thing is watching some of the country’s leading cancer charities come together to work towards the same, ultimate goal.
“It’s one of the things we spoke to Prince William about when he visited us to give Deborah her Damehood,” he added.
“We all agreed, wouldn’t it be amazing if all these big charities worked more closely together and joined up their thinking with one ultimate goal in mind?
“That’s what we are seeing, and it gives me shivers.
"That alone will make a huge difference, and it will mean we can achieve better outcomes – and more lives saved – than if we were all working separately.”
It’s thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who have donated that the family are able to fulfil one of Deborah’s last wishes – something Seb is acutely aware of.
“I wish I could reach out and thank every single person individually,” he said.
“It’s just phenomenal the support we’ve seen.
“I really do want to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to everyone – more than 330,000 individuals so far.
“There are some unbelievably moving stories behind so many of the donations, including other bowel cancer patients in similar situations to Deborah, asking for donations in the hope of helping others.
“That’s why it is so important to us as a family.
"It is a huge privilege and responsibility, which is why we have invested a lot of time getting to this point.
“It’s been a huge learning curve, but we really believe the impact of these projects could be off the charts when it comes to improving bowel cancer outcomes.”
While today marks a positive step forwards, Seb admits it conjures up a “mix of emotions”.
“Deborah was all about positivity in abundance, holding onto her ‘rebellious hope’ and living life to the full each and every day,” he said.
“The whole family is trying to do that as best we can. It’s not always easy, but the kids and I are a team and we have each other’s backs.
“The whole family is just trying to remember what Deborah would’ve wanted, to live by her incredible example.”
But Seb admits, as time passes he struggles with the “terribly sad reality” of what’s happened.
“The more the passage of time goes by the more I think how incredibly sad it is that she was diagnosed so late,” he said.
“She had symptoms for six months, and we know that caught early this disease can be treated.
“I find I am constantly moving between these two overriding feelings at the moment.
“On the one hand, a strong sense of wanting to be positive and do her legacy justice, and on the other hand being desperately sad this happened and trying to make sure this doesn’t happen to another family, it’s avoidable.”
“I can hear Deborah now,” Seb added. “She would be plotting how we get to £20million, coming up with plans to keep raising money and awareness to help others.
“That’s something the whole family is determined to do, we are all really committed to continuing Deborah’s legacy.”
PROJECTS CHAMPIONED BY BOWELBABE FUND
FIVE cutting-edge projects are the first to benefit from £4million raised by the awe-inspiring Dame Debs’ – and more will follow later this year.
- GAME CHANGING PRECISION
AROUND seven in ten cancer deaths are caused by the disease spreading in the body, called metastasis.
But thanks to advanced mathematics and highly detailed tumour measurements, Prof Trevor Graham, Director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at The Institute of Cancer Research, is hoping to discover how bowel cancer spreads – and put a stop to it.
- MICROBIOME UNCOVERED
YOUR gut and bowel are connected in more ways than one, and scientists believe the microbes in your gut could play a role in bowel cancer.
Analysing gut microbiome data from thousands of people worldwide, the OPTIMISTICC Cancer Grand Challenge team has found a bacteria that increases bowel cancer risk in some under 50s.
Now, they’re investigating whether targeting that bacteria could slash that risk.
- AI WAY AHEAD
DR Oleg Blyuss from Queen Mary University of London is using sophisticated AI tools to detect early signs of bowel, pancreatic and lung cancer.
Assessing data from blood samples, faster and more accurately than current tests allow, could mean earlier diagnosis, earlier treatment and more lives saved.
- IMAGE OF THE FUTURE
AT The Royal Marsden, Debs underwent Interventional radiology (IR) which uses imaging techniques to treat cancer in a minimally invasive way, significantly reducing side effects and damage to other organs.
Now the hospital has a brand new, advanced IR X-Ray machine, to help patients and future treatment research.
- BREAK THE TABOO
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CONTINUING Debs’ legacy, Bowel Cancer UK is ramping up education around symptoms.
The charity will host training for GPs and pharmacists, as well as volunteer-led talks and awareness roadshows UK-wide to make people – especially in areas most at risk – aware how crucial screening is.
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