Awarding Deborah James her Damehood ‘amazing for her family’, says William

Dame Deborah was honoured for her “tireless campaigning” to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

Tony Jones
Tuesday 24 May 2022 14:47
The Duke of Cambridge leaves after his visit to the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, to learn about some of the innovative work that The Royal Marsden is currently carrying out to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment. Picture date: Tuesday May 24, 2022.
The Duke of Cambridge leaves after his visit to the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, to learn about some of the innovative work that The Royal Marsden is currently carrying out to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment. Picture date: Tuesday May 24, 2022.

The Duke of Cambridge has described awarding Deborah James her Damehood as an “amazing” experience for her family, as he met the nurses and medical specialists who cared for the cancer campaigner.

William joked “as she put it, she made bowel cancer sexy” when he visited the Royal Marsden Hospital in central London to watch a cancer patient undergo cutting-edge treatment provided by a robotic surgeon.

Dame Deborah, known online as Bowel Babe, was honoured for her “tireless campaigning” to raise awareness of bowel cancer and the duke visited her at home earlier this month to present the campaigner with her honour.

The Duke of Cambridge (left) looks at a screen to follow the robotic microwave ablation procedure during his visit to the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, to learn about some of the innovative work that The Royal Marsden is carrying out (Frank Augstein/PA)

In a bitter sweet moment William described how Dame Deborah joked she could now “drink” and was “triple parked” with glasses lined up as they celebrated her damehood.

Speaking about when he visited Dame Deborah at home, he told Dr Nicos Fotiadis, a consultant interventional radiologist, who treated the cancer activist: “It was an amazing moment for them,” adding “I loved meeting her, she was fantastic.”

The host of popular BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C previously disclosed she has moved to hospice-at-home care to treat her terminal bowel cancer.

William also chatted to chief nurse Mairead Griffin, deputy chief nurse Jo Waller and ward sister Rowena Trono who also cared for the campaigner.

The duke said about meeting Dame Deborah: “I was very honoured to be able to speak to her, it felt like a very personal family moment… it was a glorious day as well.

A post from the Instagram feed of Deborah James/bowelbabe after the Duke of Cambridge visited the family home of Deborah James to honour her with a damehood (Deborah James/bowelbabe/Instagram)

“But thank you, I know she’d want me to say this as well, thank you to you guys for caring for her – she always spoke very highly about her care.”

In a lighter moment the duke described how the family celebrated with champagne: “She was saying basically ‘I can now drink, I can now drink this is brilliant’.”

“She was triple parked and she kept making a joke about how many drinks she could get lined up in front of her.”

Dame Deborah has raised more than £6.5 million for Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity through her Bowelbabe fund on Just Giving.

She originally set herself a £250,000 target and received donations from a huge number of supporters including William and his wife Kate.

The Duke of Cambridge meets staff during his visit to the Royal Marsden Hospital (Frank Augstein/PA)

The cancer campaigner is a former headteacher who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her Instagram followers, who number more than 500,000, up to date with her treatments.

Ward sister Rowena Trono praised her former patient, saying she is “full of inspiration not only to all the patients but also people who worked in the trust”.

She added: “Keeping positive really helps her… keep on going and continuing fighting and it’s also a privilege to be part of her journey.”

William, who is president of the Royal Marsden, one of Europe’s leading cancer hospitals, later watched Dr Fotiadis carry out a radiology procedure he described as “cooking” cancer cells.

A long probe operated by a robot delivered the microwave energy after a tiny incision was made to gain access to the patient’s liver where the cancer cells had been found.

The duke, who like the medical staff in the theatre was dressed in scrubs, face mask and disposable hair net, said: “This is real cutting-edge stuff.”

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