Entertainment

How Deborah James raised millions and spread awareness after being diagnosed with cancer

In her final years, Dame Deborah James used her terminal diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer to inspire the public and raise millions for charity.

The former assistant principal and podcaster, who has passed away aged 40, gained more than 900,000 followers on social media as she documented the ups and downs of her treatment with a unique sense of humor and optimism.

As one of the co-hosts of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C, she took part in candid discussions about cancer that could be both serious and light-hearted, with conversations often being interrupted by laughter.

In her final days, her campaign brought her a feminine dignity and her ‘Bowl Babe’ fundraiser for Cancer Research UK surpassed the £6million mark.

Dame Deborah was working as an assistant principal in December 2016, days before Christmas, when a counselor told her a colonoscopy showed she had a large tumour.

She had typical symptoms—weight loss, blood when going to the toilet—but attributed them to a busy, working mother.

Dame Deborah James with Steve Bland, a co-host of the podcast You, Me And The Big C (PA)

(PA wire)

A GP previously said Dame Deborah may have irritable bowel syndrome and tests showed no abnormalities.

She never got a follow-up appointment and was told the symptoms were stress-related, but said a “sixth sense” told her something was wrong.

It wasn’t until she paid to see a private specialist that she finally got a diagnosis.

At the age of just 35, Dame Deborah was told she had stage four colon cancer and was unlikely to live to the age of 40.

Despite her diagnosis, she remained unrelentingly optimistic and began documenting her treatment on social media and in a newspaper column.

Against all odds, December 2021 marked five years since her diagnosis.

“I am fully aware that I should not be alive today to write this,” she wrote on Instagram.

“But the best advice I’ve been given is to not think too much about the what-ifs and take whatever challenge I have here and now and do it bit by bit – and then maybe we’ll get far.” !“

Dame Deborah originally co-hosted the You, Me And The Big C podcast with Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland.

Bland died in September 2018 at the age of 40 following breast cancer treatment, and her widower Steve has been a regular on the show ever since.

In early May 2022, she shared a blog post on social media announcing that she had stopped active treatment and switched to home hospice care, with doctors telling her they had done all they could.

Her post sparked a burst of emotion online.



I don’t feel like I deserve this. I can’t tell you what this means to my family, it’s so much to process

Deborah James, on her femininity

She returned to her childhood home in Woking – a bungalow with a garden – where she was accompanied by her husband Sebastien and their young children Hugo and Eloise.

Speaking to The Times, she explained she had made a “to-do death list” and that the first item was to make a note of her children’s letters for them to open when she died.

She praised her husband, revealing that she gave him “strict instructions” to move on after her death.

“He’s a handsome man; I’m like, ‘Don’t be fooled, don’t marry a chick, find someone else who can make you laugh like we can,'” she said.

Deborah James (Alamy/PA)

Dame Deborah also set up a fundraiser on the JustGiving website with what she feels is an optimistic target of £250,000. In four days, she had increased more than 16 times.

More than £4million had been donated to Cancer Research UK by Friday after treatment ended.

This rose further to over £6million over the weekend.

In another surprise, Number 10 announced that she had been honored with a dame for her “tireless campaigning”.

Dame Deborah later said she was “honoured and shocked” to even be considered for the honor.

Unusually, she was bestowed the Duke of Cambridge at the family home, where he joined them for afternoon tea and champagne.

Damehoods are usually bestowed by members of the royal family – but at investiture ceremonies at royal palaces like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

Dame Deborah with her husband Sebastien Bowen received a private tour at the Chelsea Flower Show (The Harkness Rose Company/PA)

(PA Media)

She continued her campaign by announcing that she had written another book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, documenting what she had learned about how to stay positive in the face of life’s greatest challenges attitude has.

Though the book wasn’t due for release until August 2022, pre-orders rocketed it to number one on Amazon’s list, with her royalties going to her Bowelbabe Fund.

The podcast host followed the launch of a clothing line with In The Style, 100% of profits benefit the charity.

In her final days, she also attended the Chelsea Flower Show to see a pink rose that had been named after her.

As well as hosting her “last impromptu party” after her brother Benjamin got engaged to his longtime partner Ashley Hall.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/deborah-james-bowel-cancer-awareness-b2111542.html How Deborah James raised millions and spread awareness after being diagnosed with cancer

JOE HERNANDEZ

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