Cancer campaigner dies aged 40

June 29, 2022 9:00 am

Deborah James. [Photo Credit: BBC News]

Cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James has died at the age of 40.

She had been receiving end-of-life care for bowel cancer at home and had raised millions to help others affected by cancer.

The host of the BBC’s You, Me and the Big C podcast was given a damehood in May in recognition of her fundraising.

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Dame Deborah, a mother of two, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016. Her family described her as “amazing” and an “inspiration”.

They announced her death in a post on her Instagram page saying: “We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy.”

She passed away peacefully surrounded by her family, the post read.

It said she was an “inspiration and we are incredibly proud of her and her work”.

Her family said Dame Deborah shared her experience of cancer 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.”

Dame Deborah chronicled her rounds of treatment on social media, but announced on 9 May that she was no longer receiving active care and did not know how long she had left.

“My body just can’t continue anymore,” she said in a post on her @bowelbabe Instagram account.

She also launched a new fund, called the Bowelbabe fund, to raise money for research into personalised medicine for cancer patients.

It surpassed £1m in less than 24 hours – smashing her initial goal of £250,000 and has now raised more than £6.8m.

In May, she was given a damehood by Prince William at her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey, where she had chosen to stay.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – who donated to the research fund – described her “tireless efforts” in raising awareness of cancer as inspirational and thanked her for “giving hope” to those living with the disease.

Her mother, Heather James, has said her heart is “broken” following the death of her daughter.

She shared a series of photos of Dame Deborah on social media and wrote: “My heart is broken. Love you forever.”

Boris Johnson tweeted, saying he was “deeply saddened” and described the campaigner as “an inspiration to so many”.

“Because of her, many many lives will be saved”, the prime minister said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.”

Dame Deborah’s charity work was “truly inspirational” and she continued to raise awareness “even in the most challenging moments”, he tweeted.