Deborah James: tireless cancer campaigner dies aged 40

0 6

Podcaster and cancer campaigner Deborah James, whose frank account of living life with bowel cancer raised millions for cancer research and saw her awarded a damehood, has died at home aged 40.

James had been receiving end-of-life care at her home since revealing she had stopped treatment for her bowel cancer in May. 

Her family announced her death in a post on her Instagram page, describing her as “the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy”.

The host of the BBC’s You, Me and the Big C podcast had won plaudits for her “no-nonsense approach to talking about cancer”, having shared her experiences of living with the illness since her diagnosis in 2016, said the BBC.

After announcing her treatment was to end, she launched the Bowelbabe fund which raised £1m in less than 24 hours, and has gone on to raise more than £7m for research into personalised medicine for cancer patients. 

Her family said James shared her experience of cancer 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,” they added.

Bowel Cancer UK, of which James was a patron, said she had turned her bowel cancer diagnosis “into an incredible force for good” and would save countless lives through her campaigning.

Social media star

James, a mother of two and former deputy headteacher, was diagnosed “late” with incurable bowel cancer in December 2016, said the Daily Mail. She then began to share her experiences of living with the disease on social media under the name “Bowel Babe”, before becoming one of the three hosts of Radio 5 Live’s You, Me and the Big C in 2018. 

The hit show was the brainchild of its late co-host Rachael Bland, who died of terminal breast cancer aged 40, just six months after the show’s launch.

James was praised for her candid approach to discussing cancer on the show, which she continued to co-host after Bland’s death alongside Lauren Mahon and Steve Bland, Rachael’s husband. 

The show, which has featured a string of celebrities, has won plaudits for its “frank discussion” of cancer and how to deal with practical matters such as hair loss, finances and telling loved ones about the illness, said the BBC.

In an interview with The Times in May, James revealed she was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ bungalow in Woking, where her husband and children, 14-year-old Hugo and 12-year-old Eloise, had gone to be with her. 

“I want to die listening to my family, I just want to hear their banter and the normal buzz of life as I go,” she said. 

James was honoured with a damehood just days after revealing her treatment for cancer had stopped. The Queen led the praise for James, saying she was “pleased” to approve the damehood. Boris Johnson described the honour as “richly deserved”.

“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 prime minister said.

Formidable fundraiser

James launched her Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK in May as she announced to her Instagram followers that she was receiving at-home hospice care. 

She told her followers that it was “the message I never wanted to write” but that despite having “tried everything… 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.”

She revealed on Instagram last month that she was “less and less able to leave the house, or bed” and felt “down”, but still continued to make memories with her loved ones. She also announced that she had completed her second book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, which has topped the Amazon bestsellers list.

Cancer charities have also reported “a surge in people seeking bowel cancer information” since she shared that she was to stop active treatment for her cancer, said Sky News.

Following the announcement of her death, tributes have poured in for James.

Her mother Heather, whose handle on Instagram is Bowelgran, posted a tribute to her daughter on Instagram, writing: “My heart is broken. Love you forever.”

The director general of the BBC, Tim Davie, said she was a “true inspiration” and the way she talked about cancer “moved the nation, inspired change and undoubtedly saved lives”. 

The prime minister also joined the tributes to James. “I’m terribly saddened to hear that Dame Deborah James has died. What an inspiration she was to so many,” he said.

“The awareness she brought to bowel cancer and the research her campaigning has funded will be her enduring legacy. Because of her, many many lives will be saved.”

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.