Deborah James described ‘blessing’ at getting five extra years with her children before death

Dame Deborah James described how she sobbed in her car after seeing her kids off to secondary school – a milestone she never thought she would hit before her tragic death age 40 after a five-year battle with bowel cancer.

The journalist and broadcaster, who went by the nickname "bowel babe", "passed away peacefully" on Tuesday 28 June, her family shared in a statement on her Instagram.

Deborah was first diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2016 at the age of 35, before the disease sadly went on to become stage four.

The podcaster and campaigner spoke in a documentary in October 2021, shortly after reaching her 40th birthday that month, which she described as "a birthday that I never thought I would make… and I did".

The clip was shown on BBC's moving tribute documentary named Dame Deborah James: The Last Dance, which aired on Thursday at 8.30pm.

Speaking of the milestone she reached with her children, Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, she said: "The other big milestone for me was seeing my kids to secondary school.

She continued: "I didn't allow myself to think that that was possible, and I managed to just about hold it together [when she dropped them off], but, I have to say, inside I was kind of just massively crying.

"And I did that classic thing where you drop your kids off and then you, like, get into the car and you're sobbing all the way down the road, and I was thinking: 'They're not five anymore, let them live their life'".

The documentary cut to clips of Deborah with her children, before she could be seen saying: "What it's made me realise actually is just how much I've been able to witness them grow up since I've been diagnosed with cancer".

Heartbreakingly, she continued: "Yeah, I might not see them get married, but actually, the blessing of that five years [since Deborah got diagnosed with cancer], is possibly the difference between them remembering me and not remembering me. And that is huge."

The journalist and broadcaster, who went by the nickname "bowel babe", devastatingly announced on 9 May that she had moved to end-of-life care.

She explained that despite all of her treatments, her body just wasn’t “playing ball”, and that she was receiving hospice care at her parents' house.

In that time, she campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness about cancer and, after that post, she raised a staggering £6.7million and a further £1million for her collection with In The Style, all for cancer charities.

Deborah's family announced her death on Tuesday 28 June with a statement via the late star's Instagram page.

It read: "Dame Deborah James.

"We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Dame Deborah James; the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy. Deborah passed away peacefully today, surrounded by her family.

"Deborah, who many of you will know as Bowelbabe, was an inspiration and we are incredibly proud of her and her work and commitment to charitable campaigning, fundraising and her endless efforts to raise awareness of cancer that touched so many lives."

The statement continued: "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."

Her family thanked Deborah's many fans and friends for their endless support as they shared: "We thank you for giving us time in private as a family, and we look forward to continuing Deborah’s legacy long into the future through the @bowelbabefund Thank you for playing your part in her journey, you are all incredible."

Sharing a brief note from Deborah herself, with her permission, prior to her death, they added: "And a few final things from Deborah…“find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo – it could just save your life.” x (Shared with Deborah’s permission)".


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