Dame Deborah James has been hailed as an “inspiration” and an “extraordinary activist” of “incredible tenacity” as tributes poured in for podcast host and cancer activist, who has died at the age of 40.
The mother-of-two had been receiving end-of-life care since May at her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey, after stopping active treatment for the disease. In her final weeks, the presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C raised millions of pounds for research and became a lady for her “tireless” work to improve awareness.
Boris Johnson said that thanks to James “many, many lives will be saved.” The Prime Minister tweeted: “I am very saddened to learn that Dame Deborah James has passed away. What an inspiration she was to so many.
“The awareness he brought about bowel cancer and the research his campaign has funded will be his enduring legacy. Thanks to her, many, many lives will be saved.”
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said James “won the admiration of the entire nation” and she “leaves an incredible legacy”.
Labor leader Keir Starmer described James’ work as “truly inspiring”. He tweeted: “Deeply sad news. Dame Deborah James’s charity work was truly inspiring – even in the most difficult of times, she continued to raise awareness of bowel cancer and impacted the lives of so many.”
Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, described James as an “extraordinary activist”.
The former deputy director was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and was praised by politicians, charities and celebrities for her Instagram videos about her progress, diagnosis and treatment.
In May, the author of F*** You Cancer: How To Face The Big C, Live Your Life And Still Be Yourself created the bowelbabe backgroundwhich raised over £6m, more than 24 times its original target of £250,000.
James’s mother, Heather, shared a series of photos and wrote: “My heart is broken. I love you forever.”
NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard said: “On behalf of the entire NHS, I would like to offer my condolences to the family and many friends of Deborah James.
“Deborah’s incredible attitude was humbling to all of us.
“Her fundraising will not only have helped many other cancer patients, but her determination to raise awareness will undoubtedly have saved many lives.”
Comedian Mark Watson called James “an incredibly tenacious person who turned the worst possible situation into an opportunity to inspire and educate. RIP.”
Carol Vorderman also paid tribute to James, tweeting: “Rest in peace Bowelbabe. Your amazing spirit will live on.”
A tweet from Macmillan Cancer Support mentioned James’ “dedication” to supporting people with cancer.
Alongside Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland, all former or current cancer patients, James launched the You, Me And The Big C podcast in 2018.
Bland died in September of that year at age 40, two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.