Deborah James (Bowelbabe) aka Dame Deborah James was a British podcaster, author, social media influencer and a former teacher. Deborah James popularly known online as Bowelbabe was diagnosed with stage 4 ‘Bowel Cancer’ in 2016 and started campaigning for it while fighting with cancer. She has become a national figure for her charity and awareness work and started the ‘You Me and the Big C’ podcast on BBC Radio 5 Live in 2018.
Deborah was honoured with “Damehood” for her tireless campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer. Dame Deborah has raised more than £7 million for Cancer Research UK through her Bowelbabe fund on Just Giving. After living for years in South London, the radio personality has moved back into her parents home in Woking where to receive the end of life care after a five year battle with bowel cancer and died there on 28 June 2022.
|Full Name||Deborah James|
|Profession||Author, Podcaster and Influencer|
|Date of Birth||1 October 1981|
|Age (as in 2022)||40|
|Birth Place||London, United Kingdom|
|Physical Stats & More|
|Hair Colour||Dark Blonde|
|Educational Qualification||Graduation (Economics)|
|Alma Meter||Salesian School (Chertsey),
The University of Exeter
|Family, Relationship & More|
|Parents||Father - Alistair James
Mother - Heather James
|Siblings||Brother: Benjamin James|
|Spouse / Husband||Sebastien Bowen|
|Children||Son - Hugo
Daughter - Eloise
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. She co-hosted the hit BBC Radio 5 Live podcast You, Me and the Big C with Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland (later replaced by her husband Steve when she passed away in 2018), in which all three spoke candidly about their experiences with cancer.
In her talks, she said “There is a sense of disbelief that happens when you are told you ‘might’ have cancer. I mean ‘you’ were out parting two days ago, ran five miles yesterday, have a school to lead, have Christmas presents to buy – you don’t have time for cancer! It wasn’t in the plan!” (she was diagnosed with cancer just days before Christmas in 2016, at the age of 35).
Talking about her initial days with cancer, she said “I started going to the poo – we need to say that – eight times a day. And I used to be once a day kind of girl. I started getting really tired. I remember drinking loads of cups of coffee just to try to keep myself awake. Then I started losing loads of weight and I started pooing blood. For me it was the combination of these changes that led to me having a gut instinct that something wasn’t right. When I found out what it was it was quite shocking actually. I think it was the last thing that I thought it would be.”
“I had this image of bowel cancer as an old man’s disease, which I now know is absolutely not the case, actually, unfortunately, I’ve met so many young people. It’s one of the largest rising cancers under 50 and second largest cancer leads to death only after lung cancer but still there is not enough awareness of bowel cancer. We all poo, our favourite celebrities poo! Let’s kind of break down smash those taboos because quite frankly, that is going to save lives. Let’s spread the word.”
Bowelbabe has undergone numerous major operations including bowel and lung resections, multiple rounds of chemo, targeted therapy, ablation and Cyberknife – and is still undergoing treatment at the Royal Marsden. (She had her body dissected,her lungs deflated and 17 tumors removed).
And while talking about her cancer, she said ” It breaks me. The biggest thing for me right now, not knowing how long I have left, is that the kids will be Ok. I don’t feel like I’m on my deathbed. I’m not planning on dying anytime soon but it’s just so unpredictable. Sometimes I’m scared to fall asleep and that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m so tired. I am not brave – I am not dignified going towards my death – I am simply a scared girl who is doing something she has no choice in but I know I am grateful for the life that I have had.”
She wrote in one of her newspaper columns, “”In over five years of writing about how I thought it would be my final christmas., how I wouldn’t see my 40th birthday nor see my kids going to secondary school. I never envisaged writing the one where I would actually say goodbye. She also wrote about she battled to inspire and create a cancer-free future for her children: “I want them to remember me as being passionate about life and living – and passionate about them. I want them to recall their quirky, crazy mum who danced with them in the rain, drank wine and laughed when she wanted to cry. I want them to be proud of me, for making an impact and raising awareness of cancer and its signs and symptoms. I want them to live in a world where they don’t need to worry about cancer – and I want them to know I did everything I could to make that happen for them.”
Some Interesting Facts About Deborah James
- Deborah used to be a deputy teacher specializing in computer science and also e-learning at Salesian School and before her cancer she lastly worked at the Matthew Arnold School in Staines-upon-Thames.
- We can say that she defied doctor’s warnings she only had an eight percent chance of living beyond 2021. She was married to Sebastien Bowen, a banker at Pomona Capital for 15 years and had two kids (Hugo and Eloise) with him.
- She was awarded Damehood for her selfless service by Prince William on the behalf of The Queen. He said “It is important to acknowledge and recognize people like Deborah who do such an awful lot to help other people in very difficult circumstances. She’s done a brilliant job,” William replied. The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of damehood be conferred upon Deborah James.” Speaking to the hospital staff, William added: “Thank you so much for looking after her so well. She is a brave and inspirational woman.”
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “If ever an honour was richly deserved, this is it. Through her tireless campaign and her 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.”
- Dame Deborah had written her second book, titled “How To Live When You Could Be Dead” documenting what she has learned about having a positive mindset when faced with life’s biggest challenges. (She had previously penned “F*** You Cancer”, which is a self-help guide to living your best life with cancer). Despite not being due to be published until August, the book shot to number one on the Amazon list through pre-orders, with her royalties going towards her Bowelbabe Fund.
- She was an ambassador of Race for Life (Charity Organization) and was featured in various publications and appeared in talkshows. Her Instagram account has a million followers whom she had educated with all her posts.
- Considering her service, even a rose was named after her “the dames deborah james rose” (such a sweet gesture).