Deborah James has been honoured with a Damehood after raising £3.8million for charity since Monday as she revealed she was receiving end-of-life care.
The Queen led praise for the 40-year-old BBC podcaster, saying she was ‘pleased’ to approve the damehood, while the Prime Minister said ‘if ever an honour was richly deserved, this is it’.
The former headteacher was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her more than 500,000 Instagram followers up to date with her treatments. She has now raised more than £3.8 million with her Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK.
On Thursday night, Number 10 confirmed that James is to be made a dame, saying: ‘The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of damehood be conferred upon Deborah James.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘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.
‘I hope this recognition from Her Majesty – backed I’m sure by the whole country – will provide some comfort to Deborah and her family at this difficult time. My thoughts are with them and Deborah should know she has the country’s love and gratitude.’
Deborah James has been honoured with a Damehood after raising £3.8million for charity since Monday as she revealed she was receiving end-of-life care
Deborah James has written letters and bought gifts for her children Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, and wants to cuddle them for the last time before she dies
On Thursday night, Number 10 confirmed that James is to be made a dame, saying: ‘The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of damehood be conferred upon Deborah James.’ Pictured, Deborah James (left) with her family on Mother’s Day this year
Deborah James explained how she’d had ‘hard conversations’ with the children, but put her full faith in husband Sebastien Bowen – a London banker with whom she has been married more than 13 years. She has urged him to find love again as long as it’s not a ‘bimbo’
Deborah James (pictured), 40, announced earlier this week in a heartbreaking message that active treatment for her bowel cancer was stopping and that she was moving to hospice at home care
The nation has been moved by her tragic story in recent days, with at least £1million in donations now being made every day made on the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK page she set up. Today it surpassed £3.8 million (pictured)
She has now revealed her shock at being made a Dame, telling The Sun: ‘I don’t know what to say. I’m blown away and feel incredibly honoured. I don’t feel like I deserve this. I can’t tell you what this means to my family, it’s so much to take in.’
Ms James said that she would love for the fundraiser to reach £5 million by the weekend.
Dame Deborah’s children Hugo and Eloise said they were ‘speechless’ and ‘so, so proud’, while husband Seb said a damehood was ‘something that she would never have dreamt of but it is so truly deserved’.
Damehoods and knighthoods are usually listed in the New Year or Queen’s Birthday Honours, but in exceptional circumstances some are announced at other times.
The teacher-turned-podcaster has moved millions as she announced in a heartbreaking message that active treatment for her bowel cancer was stopping and that she was moving to hospice at home care to die.
The mother-of two is preparing to spend her final hours on her parents’ lawn surrounded by family, drinking Champagne, having been told by her hospice nurses: ‘You are dying, you can drink what you like.’
In a tearful final newspaper interview she said last night: ‘The one thing my family know is I am petrified of being alone. I don’t want to die alone.’ And when asked about the end of her life approaching she said: ‘I have moments when I just sob uncontrollably, but I can’t spend my last few days crying, it would be such a waste. So I’m trying to compartmentalise my death’.
She said she has started her ‘to-do death list’ to support son Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, when she is gone, and has urged her husband Sebastien to find love, with the caveat: ‘Don’t be taken for a ride, don’t marry a bimbo’.
Dame Deborah said she has written letters for her children to help them with their first dates and wedding days, and will buy Hugo ‘a nice pen or wallet or cufflinks’ and Eloise ‘Tiffany bracelets and earrings’ to remember her – as well as some presents and postcards from her for the future.
Her funeral is also planned where she will be cremated, but she hopes her ashes will be kept in the family kitchen ‘for a while’ before being scattered.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also paid tribute to the cancer-stricken BBC podcaster, declaring that she has ‘captured the heart of the nation’, after her fundraiser passed £3.3million yesterday and continues to rise at a rate of £1 million every 24 hours.
The heartbreaking interview with The Times she also revealed how she will record letters for her children to open after she’s died, including advice for them on how to act on a first date or what to do on their wedding day.
Ms James said she’s been in hospital for months, but since undergoing hospice care, she has been planning her last hours on the lawn with her family and drinking champagne, as staff joked with her: ‘You are dying, you can drink what you like.’
The nation has been moved by her tragic story in recent days, with at least £1million in donations now being made every day to her Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK page, which she set up.
Ms James earlier spoke of wanting to die at her parents’ house in Woking, to spare son, Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, from constant reminders in their London home, which she won’t visit again because of the stairs. She said: ‘I can’t use my legs any more and I’m incredibly weak… my husband must lift me for everything’.
She explained how she’d had to break the news to the children, but put her full faith in husband Sebastien Bowen – a London banker she married back in 2008.
The couple briefly split up seven years later and began divorce proceedings, but soon got back together after agreeing to counselling to be on better terms for their children.
Speaking to The Times she revealed she has issued him with ‘strict instructions’ to her ‘incredible’ husband Sebastien Bowen to find love again after her death.
‘It’s been hideous telling my children. My husband Sebastien has been incredible, he has dropped everything and is with me 24/7. My first thought was [that] I don’t want my children to see me like this. I didn’t think I would be able to speak to them without crying, but I’d love one last cuddle with them.
‘We have had a string of emotional conversations that have escalated very quickly from supportive care to end-of-life care.
‘My husband Sebastien has been incredible, he has dropped everything and is with me 24/7.
‘My first thought was [that] I don’t want my children to see me like this. I didn’t think I would be able to speak to them without crying, but I’d love one last cuddle with them.’
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have paid tribute to cancer-stricken BBC podcaster Deborah James, after her fundraiser passed £3 million yesterday
In a tweet, William and Kate said: ‘Every now and then, someone captures the heart of the nation with their zest for life & tenacious desire to give back to society.’ Pictured, the couple during their visit to Glasgow, Scotland, on May 11
On Monday, Miss James, announced that despite having 17 tumours removed and undergoing new procedures she has been moved to hospice care because her ‘body simply isn’t playing ball’.
Deborah James’ announcement that she is moving into hospice care in full:
In an emotional post shared to Instagram, Deborah said her body ‘was not playing ball’ and she was spending ‘most of the day sleeping’
‘The message I never wanted to write. We have tried everything, but my body simply isn’t playing ball. My active care has stopped and I am now moved to hospice at home care, with my incredible family all around me and the focus is on making sure I’m not in pain and spending time with them.
‘Nobody knows how long I’ve got left but I’m not able to walk, I’m sleeping most of the days, and most things I took for granted are pipe dreams. I know we have left no stone unturned. But even with all the innovative cancer drugs in the world or some magic new breakthrough, my body just can’t continue anymore.
‘In over 5 years of writing about how I thought it would be my final Christmas, how I wouldn’t see my 40th birthday nor see my kids go to secondary school – I never envisaged writing the one where I would actually say goodbye.
‘I think it’s been the rebellious hope in me.
‘But I don’t think anyone can say the last 6 months has exactly been kind! It’s all heartbreaking to be going through but I’m surrounded by so much love that if anything can help me through I hope that will.
‘I always knew there was one thing I always wanted to do before I died. I have always over the years raised as much awareness and money for the charities that are closest to me. @cr_uk @royalmarsden @bowelcanceruk
‘As a result, the @bowelbabefund is being established and I’d love nothing more than for you to help it flourish. Please visit bowelbabe.org for all the info and to donate (link in Bio).
‘All I ask if you ever read a column, followed my Instagram, listened to the podcast or saw me dressed as a poo for no reason. Please buy me a drink to see me out this world, by donating the cost to @bowelbabefund which will enable us to raise funds for further life saving research into cancer. To give more Deborah’s more time!
‘Right now for me it’s all about taking it a day at a time, step by step and being grateful for another sunrise. My whole family are around me and we will dance through this together, sunbathing and laughing (I’ll cry!!) at every possible moment!
‘You are all incredible, thank you for playing your part in my journey. No regrets.
‘Enjoy life x Deborah’
She said she is now trying to ‘compartmentalise’ her death so that she can focus on her ‘to-do death list’ which includes making memory boxes and recording letters and ‘funny messages’ for her children.
‘I know materialistic things don’t matter, but I want to buy Hugo a nice pen or wallet or cufflinks,’ she said. ‘I’m going to buy my daughter some Tiffany bracelets and earrings.
‘They will have all the memories, but I want them to have a few presents in the future. I also want to write them postcards, but I have to be honest, I get really tired.’
She added: ‘At 12 and 14 I hope they will remember me, but [they are] still very young, so my image will fade and they will have to rely on videos or photos.’
She has also imparted instructions for her husband, whom she married in 2008.
‘I want him to move on,’ she said. ‘He’s a handsome man, I’m, like, ‘Don’t be taken for a ride, don’t marry a bimbo, find someone else who can make you laugh like we did [together].’
Miss James has moved to her parents bungalow in Woking as she is no longer able to use the stairs in her townhouse in Barnes, south west London because ‘cancer is eating me up’.
She said she wants ‘to die listening to my family,’ adding: ‘I just want to hear their banter and the normal buzz of life as I go.’
She has planned her funeral to ease the ‘burden’ on her loved ones and would like to be cremated.
‘I’m the kind of person that wouldn’t mind staying in the top drawer in the kitchen for a while,’ she said.
In a tweet on Wednesday, William and Kate said: ‘Every now and then, someone captures the heart of the nation with their zest for life & tenacious desire to give back to society.
‘Bowelbabe is one of those special people. Her tireless efforts to raise awareness of bowel cancer & end the stigma of treatment are inspiring.
‘We are so sad to hear her recent update but pleased to support the Bowelbabe Fund, which will benefit the The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust among others.
‘Deborah, our thoughts are with you, your family and your friends. Thank you for giving hope to so many who are living with cancer. W & C.’
That evening, the managing director of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, Antonia Dalmahoy, thanked all of those who have donated.
‘The national outpouring of love and support for Deborah and her Bowel Babe Fund has been absolutely phenomenal and has really lifted her spirits,’ she said.
‘We’d like to thank everyone who has donated to the Fund, for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, Cancer Research UK and Bowel Cancer UK. This sum of money will make a huge difference to people with cancer and create a lasting legacy for Deborah.’
It came after she said she is is preparing to ‘surrender to the inevitable’ and is in end-of-life hospice care surrounded by her family, in a heartfelt ‘final’ newspaper column. Ms James wrote that her body had been left ’emaciated’ by five years of battling bowel cancer.
Charities and organisations set to benefit from the fundraising have lined up to thank her for her efforts.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive at Cancer Research UK said: ‘Since being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, Deborah James has shown an incredible commitment to campaigning, fundraising and raising awareness of cancer.
‘Even in this most challenging time, her determination to raise money and awareness is inspiring and we’re honoured to be supporting Deborah and her family in establishing the Bowelbabe Fund.
‘This fund will raise awareness of cancer alongside funds for clinical trials and research into personalised medicine, with the aim of creating new and kinder treatments for cancer patients and giving them more time with their loved ones.
‘The fund will support the work of Cancer Research UK and those causes she and her family are passionate about, for example Bowel Cancer UK, The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden.
‘We’ve been overwhelmed by the support for the Bowelbabe Fund so far, massively exceeding its target within hours. It’s a true testament to how many people’s lives Deborah has touched with her honesty, humour and compassion.’
BBC podcast host Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, previously choked back tears today as she thanked everyone who donated to her cancer fundraiser that raised a staggering £2.5 million. It has surpassed £3million
A spokesperson from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity added: ‘Deborah is an absolute inspiration to so many people with cancer, and a passionate supporter of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. It’s typically selfless of her to spend what precious time she has left fundraising for us, Cancer Research UK and Bowel Cancer UK.
‘The Bowel Babe Fund will, as Deborah has set out, help fund clinical trials and research into personalised medicine for cancer patients and supporting campaigns to raise awareness of bowel cancer. This may include developing new drugs, and new ways of diagnosing cancer at an earlier stage.
‘As well as this fundraising legacy, Deborah’s work over the last five years to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer and the importance of early diagnosis in improving survival, will have saved and extended countless lives.’
Ms James had earlier spoken of her connection with her family to the BBC, saying they were ‘really loving’ and that she ‘adored’ them.
Ms James told the BBC: ‘I have a really loving family who I adore. Honestly, they’re incredible and all I knew I wanted was to come here and be able to relax knowing that everything was okay.
‘I’ve had some really hard conversations during the last week. You think, ‘Gosh, how can anyone have those conversations?’ and then you find yourself in the middle of them.
‘And people are very nice, but you’re talking about your own death and I’ve had five years to prepare for my death.’
The interviewer told the mother-of-two, ‘I know it’s not easy’, as she struggled to speak around her tears, to which he eventually replied: ‘It’s hard. It’s really hard.
‘The thing that I know, because I trust my husband – he’s just the most wonderful man and so is my family, and I know that my kids are going to be more than looked after and surrounded by love.
‘You always want to know as a mother – are your kids going to be okay? And my kids are going to be fine. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to miss every chance I could have had with them.’
Remembering her former podcast co-host Rachael Bland, who died of breast cancer in 2018, Ms James told the BBC: ‘ I’m really scared. I don’t know how she could deal with such a ‘this is what I’m going to do’ [approach], I’m petrified.
‘I can’t make a deal with the devil anymore unfortunately. I just feel gutted not to have more life, ‘cos you know me, I love life so much.
‘But I do hope that all of our stories and the podcast and everything we’ve shared over the past few years has saved lives.
‘I just knew that I wanted to ensure I could leave enough money for them to do something meaningful, that would mean that we could fund projects that I myself would have benefited from 5 years ago to give me life.
‘Because you just never know do you, when that next breakthrough is going to come, but I know we have the skills and passion in this country to make things happen, but we just need to fund it properly.’
Ms James told host Tony Livesey how she was still making her way through a list of ‘death admin’ she needed to do, but the priority was remaining as comfortable as possible.
‘I can’t walk, I can’t stand, I can’t go to the loo – I can’t do really basic stuff. I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping. Just spending time watching people that I love, to just know that they are okay.
‘The more I tell myself that they are going to be okay, I know they are surrounded by love. I know they are surrounded by support – they will be fine.’
Signing off tearfully in the final episode of her podcast, she told listeners: ‘That’s it from me, I can’t believe it, which is a very sad thing to say. I’m pleased I’ve got to the point where I can say it. We’ll see each other again, somewhere, somehow, dancing. Until then, please, please, just enjoy life because it’s so precious. All I want right now is more time and more life.’
She then joked: ‘And check your poo. I can’t leave on any other word except from check your poo.’
The mother-of-two has spent months recovering after she almost died in January due to a medical emergency
The mother-of-two, who has faced a challenging six months with her cancer treatment, said she felt ‘heartbroken’
BBC podcast host Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, revealed in April after she was discharged after more than a month in hospital. Pictured, leaving the Royal Marsden Hospital
Deborah, who has incurable bowel cancer, revealed how she ‘nearly died’ in January in an ‘acute medical emergency’. She shared this photo from hospital
At the start of the year, Deborah, who shares her children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, with her husband Sebastien, announced she had ‘nearly died’ in hospital, calling it the ‘hardest’ part of her 5-year cancer battle, and was admitted as an in-patient earlier this month.
She was told early on in her diagnosis that she might not live beyond five years — a milestone that passed on Christmas of 2021.
Writing in her Instagram post, she said: ‘Nobody knows how long I’ve got left but I’m not able to walk, I’m sleeping most of the days, and most things I took for granted are pipe dreams. I know we have left no stone unturned.
‘But even with all the innovative cancer drugs in the world or some magic new breakthrough, my body just can’t continue anymore.’
‘In over 5 years of writing about how I thought it would be my final Christmas, how I wouldn’t see my 40th birthday nor see my kids go to secondary school – I never envisaged writing the one where I would actually say goodbye.
‘I think it’s been the rebellious hope in me.’
Tributes to Deborah called her a ‘true inspiration’ and a ‘force to be reckoned with’ when it came to talking about bowel cancer.
Her podcast co-host, Lauren Mahon, shared a lengthy tribute on Instagram, saying that hearts have been ‘shattered into thousands of pieces’ by Deborah’s announcement and are simultaneously ‘completely bursting with pride’.
Ms Mahon said that she is ‘not ready to accept what’s happening right now’ and asked for people to keep Deborah’s parents, siblings and family in their ‘hearts, thoughts and prayers’.
She also urged people to support the new fundraising campaign, Bowelbabe Fund, for Cancer Research UK.
Deborah’s fundraising efforts, adding: ‘She did it! Bowelbabe did that. Let’s keep it going. Two mil anyone? Proud doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s awe.
It has since raised more than £3million in less than 72 hours after it was launched. It will be spent on funding clinical trials and research into personalised medicine that could result in new treatments for cancer patients, and continued support to raise awareness of cancer.
Discussing how difficult the last six months have been, James said while she was really happy that the ‘big gun chemo’ she endured has slowed her cancer’s growth, which had been ‘on the march’, it had been an exhausting time.
In the summer, James was told she had an aggressive new tumour that had wrapped itself around her bile duct – requiring a life-saving stay in hospital – and a stent fitted to stop her liver from failing.
The stent fitted to stop her liver failing ‘stopped working’ in December.
She explained to her followers at the time how hopes at having a ‘quick replacement operation’ had turned into a ‘nightmare’.
She said: ‘I’m now at the mercy of hopefully some super ‘magic medicine miracle’ – but then I always have been, and any chance is a chance right?
‘All I ever say Is all I want is hope and options.’
Last year, James shared that her cancer, which has been kept at bay by pioneering treatment, was back again and she was forced to endure a 12th operation.
The West London mother-of-two, a deputy head, was diagnosed ‘late’ with incurable bowel cancer in 2016. She has frequently said that as a vegetarian runner, she was the last person doctors expected to get the disease.
After sharing her experiences on living with the disease on social media, Deborah became known as the ‘Bowel Babe’ and began writing a column for the Sun.
In 2018, Deborah joined Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland to present the award-winning podcast You, Me and the Big C on Radio 5 Live.
Bland tragically died of breast cancer on September 5th that year; her husband Steve Bland now co-presents the show.
HOW DEPUTY HEAD TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA STAR HAS TRANSFORMED BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS
In 2018, Deborah (left) joined Lauren Mahon (front) and Rachael Bland (right) to present the award-winning podcast You, Me and the Big C on Radio 5 Live. Bland tragically died of breast cancer on September 5th that year; her husband Steve Bland now co-presents the show
- In December 2016, the West London mother-of-two, a deputy head, was diagnosed ‘late’ with incurable bowel cancer
- After sharing her experiences on living with the disease on social media, Deborah became known as the ‘Bowel Babe’
- In 2018, she became one of three presenters on Radio 5 Live’s You, Me and the Big C, which was conceived by her late co-host Rachael Bland
- On September 5th 2018, Welsh journalist and presenter Bland, diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, died at the age of 40
- Deborah and her co-host Lauren Mahon continue to present the show, with Steve Bland, Rachael’s husband, joining the duo
- On social media and in her column for the Sun newspaper, Deborah has documented the many chemo, radiotherapy sessions and surgery she’s had since
During her treatment, Deborah told followers on Instagram ‘By my general lack of being on here (dancing!), that Things have moved (in the wrong direction) very quickly cancer wise.’ Pictured: Deborah James undergoing a scan at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London
- In 2019, she had a procedure known as CyberKnife, a highly targeted form of radiotherapy to attack an inoperable lymph node close to her liver
- The pandemic’s impact on cancer services saw her campaign for care to continue as normal and, earlier this year, she launched the ITV’s Lorraine’s ‘No Butts’ campaign, raising awareness on bowel cancer symptoms
- Since last year, she has been taking new experimental drugs as part of a trial after her oncology team gave her the green light to do so
- August, Deborah revealed that scans she’s had in recent days have revealed her cancer has gone in the ‘wrong direction very quickly’
- She told followers she would be taking a break on social media over the weekend to ‘snuggle’ with her family ahead of more scans
- The mother-of-two said a new ‘rapidly-growing’ tumour near her liver had wrapped itself around her bowel
- On October 1, Deborah celebrates her 40th birthday
- By October 18, the mother-of-two told her followers her chemotherapy is working
- Days later, she was rushed to A&E with ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’
- In November, she reveals she is unable to walk for more than 20 minutes and remains ‘very weak’
- By December, Deborah said she was ‘not sure what her options were’ after her liver stent ‘stopped working’
- In January, she had five operations in 10 days after nearly dying in an acute medical emergency
- January 25, Deborah returns home from hospital after three weeks
- March 14, the mother-of-two is back in hospital as an in-patient after suffering from septic infection
- In April, she concerned fans with snaps after suffering ‘a rough few days’
- April 14, the mother-of-two tells fans she has been discharged from hospital but calls the situation ‘very tough’
- April 27, she tells Lorraine that she has spent ’80 per cent’ of the year in hospital
- May 9 – Deborah announces she has moved to hospice care