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Dame Deborah James died on June 28 last year after a five-year-long battle with incurable bowel cancer. The presenter, who died surrounded by her friends and family at the age of 40, raised millions for cancer charities in her final days – and her brother has now opened up about her lasting legacy.
Dame Deborah used her voice on the BBC podcast You, Me and the Big C, as well as on her Instagram @Bowelbabe to raise awareness for the disease.
A BBC Sounds live special, You, Me And The Big C: Putting The Can In Cancer, has since been recorded to pay tribute to the late icon.
In it, her brother Benjamin James spoke about how Dame Deborah cared more about the number of people she was “touching” with her cancer awareness campaign than the amount of money she raised for charity.
He said: “She just had this vision of wanting to give more people more time, through doing something good and using her platform to raise as much money, as much engagement, as much awareness, as she could.”
“We were all focused on that first £1 million that was publicised but I remember Debs turning around and saying ‘Now (there) is almost 330,000 individual donations’,” he recalled.
“I think her view is all about the numbers (engaged) and she was reading the comments from so and so whether it’s £1 or £100,000, she was caring about the number of people that she was touching.
“And I think she kind of just brought home that it was about the engagement, not kind of, you know, the exact number.”
The star’s Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK has raised more than £7.5 million online.
Before her death, she also succeeded in launching a clothing line and writing Amazon No 1 bestseller How to Live When You Could Be Dead, which has continued to bring in funds from sales.
Dame Deborah and her husband Sebastien Bowen are parents to 14-year-old son Hugo and a daughter called Eloise, 12.
In Deborah’s final few weeks, she returned to her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey, to spend time with her family before her death.
When Deborah died, a statement was shared to her Instagram page next to a beautiful picture of the podcast host.
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It read: “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.
“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.”
Deborah’s loved ones thanked the “incredible” public for “playing their part in her journey” and said they “look forward to continuing Deborah’s legacy long into the future through the BowelBabe Fund”.
The statement concluded: “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.”
Both Dame Deborah and her fellow podcaster Rachael Bland’s lives were celebrated at the special one-off episode of their show, which was held in front of a live London audience and presented by Lauren Mahon and Rachael’s widower Steve.
You, Me And The Big C: Putting The Can In Cancer is available on BBC Sounds.
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