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Cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James dies aged 40

dame deborah james
dame deborah james Image credit:

Cancer campaigner and podcaster Dame Deborah James has passed away at the age of 40.

The host of BBC’s You, Me and the Big C was receiving end-of-life care for bowel cancer after being diagnosed with the illness in 2016.

Her family announced her death this morning, June 29, on Instagram saying: "We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy”

They said Dame Deborah went public with her cancer diagnosis 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."

The deputy head teacher became a journalist for The Sun before becoming a BBC broadcaster where she presented her popular podcast.

On 9 May Dame Deborah announced her illness had progressed to its late stages and would no longer be receiving active care.

Realising she did not have much time left Deborah launched a new charity, the Bowelbabe fund, to raise money supporting research into personalised medication for cancer patients.

The fund, which backs Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK and the Royal Marsden Hospital, was a huge success, within 24 hours it had already passed its initial target of £250,000.

She received a damehood in May from Prince William at her parent’s house based in Woking, Surrey.

Dame Deborah described the experience as “surreal”

"You can imagine the cleaning antics and preparation went off the scale - but it was all irrelevant because William was so kind," she said.

A spokesperson for Bowel Cancer UK said because of Dame Deborah’s work thousands of lives will be saved.

Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: "She had this incredible power to connect with people. She leaves a tremendous legacy behind her".

On her last podcast Dame Deborah signed out by saying:  "Check your poo. Come on. I can't leave on any other word apart from check your poo.

"I still have images of me dancing in poo outfits everywhere. So maybe I should leave on that final word. Check your poo."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described her as “an inspiration to so many”.

Director general of the BBC, Tim Davies, called her a “true inspiration” who "moved the nation, inspired change and undoubtedly saved lives".

Dame Deborah’s first book, called F*** You Cancer: How to face the big C, live your life and still be yourself, was published in 2018.

Her second book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, is due to be released on 18 August.

Everyone over the age of 40 is advised to be checked for bowel cancer on a regular basis.