Podcaster and colon cancer activist Dame Deborah James has died at the age of 40, her family has announced.
In her final weeks, the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C presenter raised millions of pounds for research and became a lady for her “tiring” work raising awareness of the disease.
In early May, she revealed that she had stopped active treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ home in Woking, accompanied by her husband Sebastien and their two children.
A statement posted by her family on Instagram said: “We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most wonderful wife, daughter, sister, mom. Deborah passed away peacefully today surrounded by her family.
“Deborah, who many of you will know as Bowelbabe, was an inspiration and we are incredibly proud of her and her work and dedication to charity campaigns, fundraising and her endless efforts to raise awareness of cancer that has touched so many lives.” Deborah shared her experience of using the world to raise awareness, break down barriers, break taboos and change the conversation about cancer. Even in her most challenging moments, her determination to raise money and raise awareness was inspiring.
“We thank you for giving us time privately as a family, and we look forward to continuing Deborah’s legacy well into the future through the @bowelbabefund. Thank you for your part in her journey, you are all incredible.
“And a few last things from Deborah…’Find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love much; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo — it could save your life.'”
Her mother Heather, whose handle on Instagram is Bowelgran, shared a series of photos of Ms James, writing: “My heart is broken. I love you forever.”
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins, BBC radio presenter Chris Stark and TV presenter Gaby Roslin were also among those who paid tribute.
Stark tweeted: “Dame Deborah James.
“You have inspired so many and pushed everything to the limit. No one can do more than that. I hope we can have a gin wherever this leads.
“Thinking of your family and friends and anyone going through the same. Rest in peace Debs x”
The former deputy principal of the school was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016 and subsequently kept her nearly a million Instagram followers informed about her treatments.
Her candid posts about her progress and diagnosis, including videos of her dancing her way through treatment, have been praised by the public and media alike.
Together with Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland, she launched the podcast You, Me And The Big C in 2018.
The trio, all former or current cancer patients, candidly discussed life, treatment, and other topics related to cancer.
Bland died in September of that year at age 40, two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Ms James announced in early May 2022 that she will receive end-of-life home care.
“The tweet I never wanted to write,” she said on Twitter.
“It’s time to say goodbye. 5 years of preparation doesn’t make it easy.”
After making the announcement, she set up the Bowelbabe Fund, which raised more than £6 million – more than 24 times her original goal of £250,000.
She was made a lady for her efforts, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying, “If ever there was an honor richly deserved, this is it.”
Ms. James later said she felt “honoured and shocked” to even be considered for the honor.
Another surprise was that her damehood was awarded by the Duke of Cambridge, who joined her family at home for afternoon tea and champagne.
Damehoods are usually awarded by members of the royal family, including William, during investiture ceremonies that take place in royal palaces, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
She also revealed that she had completed her second book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, which is due out 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.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that thanks to Ms James “many lives will be saved”.
He tweeted: “I am terribly saddened to hear that Dame Deborah James has passed away. What an inspiration she was to so many.
“The awareness she has brought to colon cancer and the research her campaign has funded will be her lasting legacy.
“Many lives will be saved through her.”