BBC’s Deborah James receives damehood after revealing she has moved to hospice care

Queen ‘pleased to approve that the honour of damehood be conferred upon’ former headteacher

Andy Gregory
Friday 13 May 2022 02:43
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Deborah James talks about saying goodbye to loved ones amid cancer treatment

Deborah James, the cancer campaigner and podcast host, has been awarded a damehood, Downing Street has confirmed.

The 40-year-old disclosed this week that she had stopped active treatment for her terminal bowel cancer and moved to hospice-at-home care, “with my incredible family all around me”.

In a moving final episode of her BBC podcast, You, Me And The Big C, the much-loved presenter told her listeners that she could have “weeks at most” to live.

A former headteacher, James was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her more than 500,000 Instagram followers up to date with her treatments, having started her podcast in 2018.

The mother-of-two, who is known as Bowel Babe online, has raised more than £3.7m after setting up a Just Giving page to raise money for clinical trials, research, and raising awareness of bowel cancer.

On Thursday night, No 10 confirmed that Ms 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.”

Boris Johnson said that, “if ever an honour was richly deserved, this is it”, adding: “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.”

Ms James has been treated at the Royal Marsden hospital, of which Prince William is patron. Earlier this week, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and his wife donated an undisclosed sum to Ms James’s fundraising initiative.

The royal couple praised Ms James as “one of those special people” who “captures the heart of the nation with their zest for life and tenacious desire to give back to society”, and thanked her for her “tireless efforts” and “for giving hope to so many”.

In an Instagram post this week, Ms James told her followers that the last six months had been “heartbreaking”, but that she had been surrounded by “so much love” and had “no regrets”.

“We have tried everything, but my body simply isn’t playing ball,” the campaigner said, adding: “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!”

Additional reporting by PA

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