You, Me and the Big C Podcaster Dame Deborah James Dies at 40

Dame Deborah James, a cancer patient who spent years sharing her journey and raising money and awareness for cancer causes, passed away this week. She was 40-years-old.

James was diagnosed with stage IV bowel cancer in 2016. She turned the diagnosis into a chance to flip the narrative around cancer with her @BowelBabe handle, as well as the podcast You, Me and the Big C. Both channels endeared her to listeners and readers across the globe and allowed her to help other patients.

In an Instagram post announcing her death, her family wrote, “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.”

Following her diagnosis in December 2016, James pivoted away from her teaching career to write about her experience. In 2018, her broadcasting career took off with the You, Me, and the Big C podcast. She made it a point to be honest about what living with cancer and treatments entail. She also brought a dash of humor to the airwaves, even wearing a giant poo emoji costume at times.

She posted a video in the costume set to the song “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month each April.

In 2019, she wrote along with the video, “Don’t die of embarrassment – if I can do poo costume dancing – you can check your poo! 42,000 people get Bowel Cancer each year in the U.K. whilst the majority are over 50, we know you are Never too Young (old, ugly, fit or healthy). I was the vegetarian runner that got it aged 35! Sadly 16,000 people are still dying each year from this disease.”

She went on to remind followers of what to watch out for: blood in your stool, change in bowel habits, lump in the stomach, unexplained weight loss, and unexplained tiredness.

Throughout her journey with the disease, she also ran races in support of charities, organized charity balls, and participated in many fundraising challenges.

As her health began to decline in the spring of 2022, she announced in May that her body was no longer cooperating and she had ended active treatment. She said she was on hospice care and unsure of how much time she had left to her.

She wrote, “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!”

She had one last wish, though: to raise more money for cancer patients before she passed away. She launched the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK, which will raise money for clinical trials and research into personalized medicine for cancer patients and support campaigns to raise awareness of bowel cancer. Within a day, it had already passed £1 million.

She also got a bit more recognition before she passed away: a damehood from Queen Elizabeth I. Prince William presented it to her at her parents’ home, where she had chosen to live out her days.

James leaves behind her husband Sebastien and two children, Eloise and Hugo.

If you’d like to contribute to the Bowelbabe Fund, click here.

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