Deborah James' children read touching poems as beloved podcaster is laid to rest

20 July 2022, 13:00 | Updated: 20 July 2022, 20:30

Mourners pay their respects to Deborah James
Mourners pay their respects to Deborah James. Picture: Getty

By Will Taylor

Deborah James' children read poems at her funeral as family and friends including Lorraine Kelly, Gaby Roslin and Tom Fletcher paid tribute to her life.

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The podcaster, known as "Bowelbabe", captured the hearts of millions as she spoke frankly about her bowel cancer diagnosis and how she was living with the disease.

The mother-of-two died aged 40 last month. At the time of her death, she had raised £6 million from over 300,000 supporters for Cancer Research UK. That total is now over £7m.

She brought inspiration and awareness about 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.

She later earned a damehood, conferred by Prince William at her family's home in Woking.

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

Tom Fletcher of McFly was among the mourners
Tom Fletcher of McFly was among the mourners. Picture: Getty
Deborah James's famous Instagram photo appeared on the funeral's order of service
Deborah James's famous Instagram photo appeared on the funeral's order of service. Picture: Getty

Friends and family arrived at St Mary's Church in Barnes, South London, on Wednesday.

They lined up behind a black Rolls Royce and a casket was brought into the church.

Dame Deborah's husband Sebastien delivered a eulogy while children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, both read poems.

Family friend and jazz singer Natalie Rushdie sang Tell Me It's Not True from the musical Blood Brothers.

Friend Sarah Mountford read an extract from Ecclesiastes while cellist Charles Watt played music from Gabriel Faure.

Ms Kelly and Ms Roslin, who were friends of Dame Deborah, carried a wreath of white flowers. An attached note said: "Deborah, thank you to our extraordinary friend. You together with Seb, Eloise and Hugo are such an important part of our family, we will love and miss you forever."

You, Me and the Big C was renowned for the hosts' frank discussions about cancer, and it took on the subject with both humour and a serious fashion.

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

Mourners said farewell to the beloved podcaster
Mourners said farewell to the beloved podcaster. Picture: Getty
Deborah James was laid to rest on Wednesday
Deborah James was laid to rest on Wednesday. Picture: Getty

Dame Deborah, a former deputy headteacher, accrued more than 900,000 followers on social media. She was beloved for her humour and optimism even in the face of her condition.

She was diagnosed days before Christmas 2016 after suffering symptoms associated with bowel cancer, such as losing weight and passing blood when using the toilet, but it was initially thought she could have irritable bowel syndrome.

Her symptoms were put down to stress but a private specialist later diagnosed her correctly.

She would survive more than five years from her initial diagnosis, against the odds. Besides her podcast, she launched the In The Style clothing line which sends its profits to the Bowelbabe Fund.

She had stopped active treatment by May and moved to hospice-at-home care after doctors said they had done all they could - but she smashed her original goal of raising £250,000 for Cancer Research.

Dame Deborah went back to her parents' home in Woking to live in the bungalow with her husband, Sebastien, and young children Hugo and Eloise. She wrote letters for them that were to be opened after her death.

Read more: Beloved podcaster Deborah James dies aged 40 after bowel cancer battle

Gaby Roslin paid her respects
Gaby Roslin paid her respects. Picture: Getty
Deborah James died last month aged 40
Deborah James died last month aged 40. Picture: Getty

Her family, who asked for space to grieve after her death, said they hoped to keep her legacy going.

"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," they said last month.

"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."