A terrible loss. BBC host Deborah James is dead at the age of 40.
“We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy. Deborah passed away peacefully today, surrounded by her family,” read a message from her family shared via her official Instagram page on Tuesday, June 28.
The social media obituary called James, also known as Bowelbabe, “an inspiration” for speaking openly about her diagnosis. “Deborah shared her experience 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,” the tribute continued.
The death announcement noted that Deborah’s family plans to continue her legacy through Bowelbabe Fund.
“And a few final things from Deborah…’find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo – it could just save your life,'” the post concluded.
The TV personality shared son Hugo, 14, and daughter Eloise, 13, with husband Sebastien Bowen, whom she married in 2008. James previously revealed that she was cancer-free following a long-term battle with the life-threatening stage IV diagnosis.
“It’s a bit bonkers (and I haven’t honestly processed this for a few reasons), but right now, I have no evidence of cancer in my body!!. Which seems bonkers considering at one stage I had 15 tumours!” the U.K. native wrote in 2020 after discovering she was in remission.
In a horrible twist of fate, the cancer returned in January 2022, but the BBC podcast host used her social media platforms to stay positive.
“I think at times it can be forgotten that the biggest challenge and celebration is to weave real life through Cancer — despite how hard it might be to do so,” James wrote via Instagram at the time. “Sometimes I fear, that once tarnished with the Cancer brush, there is an expectation that forever more one should only talk about cancer. That people forget the emotional toll that might take. The historical years of talking, writing about every topic related to it. I love more than anything when I see accounts of people living with cancer — celebrating living!”
After a nearly six-year-long battle with her diagnosis, James revealed that she was entering hospice care in the comfort of her own home after spending the last few months of her life in and out of the hospital.
“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,” the former teacher told her social media followers about her decision in May 2022. with my incredible family all around me and the focus is on making sure I’m not in pain and spending time with them,” she wrote. “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.”
Her announcement sparked an outpouring of support at the time, with James admitting to the BBC that same month that she was “mind blown” over the love she was receiving online.
The journalist also noted that her fundraising had reached new heights, with her BowelBabe Fund for cancer research receiving over $6 million in donations after her announcement.
“It makes me feel utterly loved,” she explained. But it makes me feel like we’re all kind of in it at the end together and we all want to make a difference and say, ‘You know what? Screw you cancer.’ You know, we can do better.”
The F**k You Cancer author added: “Over the last five years I’ve campaigned, I’ve spoken about awareness, I’ve shared my story for a reason — the laughs, the giggles, sharing that you can live with cancer, unveiling what cancer can look like. But ultimately what I really want to happen is I don’t want any other Deborahs to have to go through this. We know that when we catch cancer early, we can cure it.”
Before her passing, Prince William made a May 14 visit to James’ home to present her with a gift.
“Prince William actually came to our family house today!! I am utterly honoured that he joined us for afternoon tea and champagne, where he not only spent a generous amount of time talking to my whole family but also honoured me with my Damehood,” she captioned a series of Instagram photos from the day. “It’s quite surreal having a royal pop in at home, and yes you can imagine the cleaning antics and preparation went off the scale — but it was all irrelevant because William was so kind and he put us all at ease.”
The podcast host went on to praise William, 39, for being “passionate about improving oncology outcomes as the President of the Royal Marsden,” noting: “It was such a special day for my whole family, making memories to last a lifetime. He’s welcome back any time!”