Boris Johnson hails Deborah James as ‘the inspiration to so many’ after her death

Boris Johnson hailed Dame Deborah James as an ‘inspiration’ and said that through her campaign work ‘very many lives will be saved’.

The podcaster, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, died on Tuesday after spending her final weeks receiving end-of-life care at home with her husband, Sebastien, and their two children.

The Prime Minister was among those who paid tribute and wrote on Twitter: “I am terribly saddened to learn that Dame Deborah James has passed away. What an inspiration she has been to so many.

“The awareness she brought about bowel cancer and the research her campaign funded will be her lasting legacy.

“Thanks to her, many lives will be saved.”

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said the news of his death was “deeply sad”.

He added: ‘Dame Deborah James’ charity work was truly inspiring – even in the most difficult times she continued to raise awareness for bowel cancer and impacted the lives of so many.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said she was “leaving behind an incredible legacy”.

He tweeted: “RIP Lady Deborah. His outstanding campaign to help people living with cancer has won nationwide admiration and started important conversations about living with the ‘big C’.

“She leaves behind an incredible legacy, and my heart goes out to her loved ones.”

In her final weeks, Dame Deborah – a presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C – raised millions of pounds for research and was named a Dame for her ‘tireless’ work to raise awareness to disease.

She revealed in early May that she had stopped active treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ home in Woking.

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A statement posted by her family on Instagram said: ‘We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister and mom. Deborah passed away peacefully today, surrounded by her family.

“Deborah, known to many of you as Bowelbabe, has been an inspiration and we are extremely proud of her, her work and her commitment to charity campaigns, fundraising and her endless efforts to raise awareness about the cancer that has touched so many lives. Deborah has shared her experience with the world to raise awareness, break down barriers, challenge taboos and change the conversation around cancer. Even in her most difficult times, her determination to raise funds and awareness was inspiring.

“We thank you for giving us private time as a family, and we look forward to continuing Deborah’s legacy long into the future through the @bowelbabefund. Thank you for playing your part in his journey, you are all amazing.

“And a few last things from Deborah… ‘find a life worth living; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo – it just might save the life.

Her mother Heather, whose Instagram handle is Bowelgran, shared a series of photos of Dame Deborah and wrote: “My heart is broken. I love you forever.”

Good Morning Britain host Charlotte Hawkins, BBC radio presenter Chris Stark and TV host Gaby Roslin were also among those who paid tribute.

Stark tweeted: “Lady Deborah James.

“You have inspired so many and you have done everything to the fullest. No one can do more than that. Hopefully we can have a gin wherever this all leads.

“Thinking of your family and friends and anyone going through the same thing. Rest in peace Debs x”

The former assistant director was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and later kept nearly a million Instagram followers up to date on her treatments.

Her candid posts about her progress and diagnosis, including videos of her dancing through her treatment, have been praised by the public and the media.

Alongside Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland, she launched the podcast You, Me And The Big C in 2018.

The trio, all of whom were former or current cancer patients, candidly discussed living with, treatment and other cancer-related topics.

Bland died in September of that year at the age of 40, two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dame Deborah announced in early May 2022 that she was receiving end-of-life care at home.

“The tweet I never meant to write,” she said on Twitter.

“The time has come to say goodbye. 5 years to prepare, it’s not easy.

After making the announcement, she set up the Bowelbabe Fund, which has raised over £6m for Cancer Research UK, more than 24 times her original target of £250,000.

A statement from the charity after her death said: “This is incredibly sad news. Dame Deborah James brought her rebellious hope to all she did, she will be deeply missed by all of us. Our hearts go out to her family, her friends and all those whose lives she touched.

For her efforts, she became a lady, with Mr Johnson saying: ‘If ever an honor was richly deserved, this is it.’

Dame Deborah later said she felt “honoured and shocked” to even be considered for the honour.

In another surprise, her femininity was bestowed upon the Duke of Cambridge, who joined her family for afternoon tea and champagne at the house.

The ladies are usually presented by members of the royal family, including William, at investiture ceremonies that take place at royal palaces, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

She also revealed that she has completed her second book, titled How To Live When You Could Be Dead, which was due for release on August 18.

Her first book, F*** You Cancer: How To Face The Big C, Live Your Life And Still Be Yourself, was published in 2018.


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Edward L. Robinett