Beloved podcaster Deborah James dies aged 40 after bowel cancer battle

28 June 2022, 21:00 | Updated: 28 June 2022, 21:57

Deborah James has died aged 40
Deborah James has died aged 40. Picture: Instagram/@bowelbabe

By Will Taylor

Deborah James, the beloved podcast host who chronicled her fight with bowel cancer, has died.

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The 40-year-old mother-of-two was diagnosed in December 2016 and recently shared she did not have much time left.

Through her Bowelbabe Fund, she raised more than £6 million from over 300,000 supporters for Cancer Research UK.

She brought inspiration and awareness over her terminal diagnosis of stage four bowel cancer through her popular podcast You, Me and the Big C, which she co-hosted with Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland.

In an Instagram post on her account, her family 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, 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."

Listen to You, Me and the Big C on Global Player

The family added that they wanted to grieve in private together but want to continue her legacy via the Bowelbabe Fund.

"Thank you for playing your part in her journey, you are all incredible," they said.

"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"

Dame Deborah was a former deputy headteacher and podcaster who gained more than 900,000 followers on social media.

She was renowned for her humour and optimism even in the face of her condition.

You, Me and The Big C was known for its frank chats about cancer, which were both serious and light-hearted.

She earned a damehood in her final days, saying she was "honoured and shocked" about the award. The honour was conferred by Prince William, who travelled to the family home in Woking to carry it out and joined them for tea and champagne.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "I'm terribly saddened to hear that Dame Deborah James has died. What an inspiration she was to so many.

"The awareness she brought to bowel cancer and the research her campaigning has funded will be her enduring legacy.

"Because of her, many many lives will be saved."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Deeply sad news. Dame Deborah James' charity work was truly inspirational - even in the most challenging moments, she continued to raise awareness about bowel cancer and impacted so many people's lives.

"Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time."

Read more: Cancer-stricken podcaster Deborah James raises £1m after tearful farewell post

Dame Deborah was diagnosed days before Christmas 2016 after suffering symptoms associated with bowel cancer, such as losing weight and passing blood when using the toilet.

It was initially thought she might have had irritable bowel syndrome and her symptoms put down to stress, but after believing something was wrong she got a diagnosis upon consultation with a private specialist.

She would survive more than five years from her initial diagnosis, against the odds, and co-hosted her podcast in that time, as well as launching the In The Style clothing line that sends all its profits to the Bowelbabe Fund.

During the podcast's run, co-host Ms Bland died, succeeded on the recordings by Steve, her widower, who became a regular.

She said in May that she had stopped active treatment and moved to hospice-at-home care after doctors said they had done all they could.

Dam Deborah then smashed her original goal of raising £250,000 for Cancer Research, which swelled to millions within four days of setting it up on JustGiving.

She went back to her parents’ home in Woking and lived in the bungalow with her husband, Sebastien, and young children Hugo and Eloise, who she has written letters for that were to be opened after her death.

She told her husband to move on after her passing.

A book called How To Live When You Could Be Dead, which is about having a positive midnest when faced with big challenges, will be published in August 2022.

Royalties will go to the Bowelbabe Fund.