Family hail ‘amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy’ who campaigned to raise awareness of her condition
The mother-of-two, also known as Bowel Babe, was known for her documentation of life under treatment for her illness, running a blog and Instagram page alongside the popularYou, Me and the Big C podcast for the BBC.
Announcing her death on Instagram, James’s family said: “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.”
She was “an inspiration and we are incredibly proud of her and her work”, they said.
They said James’s final words to the public were: ”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.”
Deborah’s mother Heather James, who goes by Bowelgran on social media, shared a series of photos of her daughter on Instagram and said: “My heart is broken. Love you forever.”
Dozens of figures from the entertainment world that James entered in her final years went online to pay their respects to the presenter. Good Morning Britain host Charlotte Hawkins, BBC radio presenter Chris Stark and TV host Gaby Roslin were among those paying tribute.
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “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.”
She added: “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.”
In the weeks leading to her death, James was honoured with a damehood. Downing Street said: “The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of Damehood be conferred upon Deborah James.”
Boris Johnson paid tribute to James, saying: “If ever an honour was richly deserved, this is it. Deborah has been an inspiration and her honesty, warmth and courage has been a source of strength to so many people.
“Through her tireless campaigning and by so openly sharing her experience she has not only helped in our fight against this terrible disease, she has ensured countless others with the Big C have not felt alone.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were among donaters to the fund, and praised James for her “tireless efforts” in raising cancer awareness and they thanked her for “giving hope” to those living with the disease.
James responded to the damehood and said she was “blown away and crying”. The presenter spent her last days being cared for at her parents house, surrounded by family.
She was first diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer in 2016 at the age of 35.
The educator-turned-campaigner worked tirelessly over the past six years to raise awareness of the disease and getting bowel cancer at a young age. She ran marathons, organised a charity ball and was named a patron of Bowel Cancer UK in 2021.
She began co-presenting her podcast alongside Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland in 2018. Bland, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, died six months after the show launched, aged 40.
In May, James announced she was receiving end-of-life care and leaving public life.