The 40-year-old TV star admitted she has now been moved to hospice at home care to treat her terminal bowel cancer, and is surrounded by her family and friends.
The presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C said the last six months have been “heartbreaking” to go through, but that she has been surrounded by “so much love” and has “no regrets”.
Who is Deborah James?
Deborah James is a former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner from London.
She has written for and featured in a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Sun, Daily Mail, The Times, Grazia, Women’s Health and Marie Claire, and the Independent.
She also appeared as a regular co-host on Talk Radio and BBC radio London, and has featured and presented for BBC Breakfast, Lorraine, Sky News, Victoria Derbyshire, Stand up to Cancer and The One Show.
James also penned a bestselling book titled “F*** You Cancer”, which is a self-help guide to living your best life with cancer, and is presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C.
She is married to Sebastien Bowen, a banker at Pomona Capital, and together they have two children, Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12.
When was she diagnosed with bowel cancer?
James was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her nearly 300,000 Instagram followers up to date with her treatments ever since, sharing candid posts about her progress and diagnosis.
On 14 December 2021, she marked five years since her diagnosis and said in a post: “I’m fully aware I shouldn’t be alive to write this today”.
What symptoms did she have?
James has said that her symptoms began with weight loss, passing blood, going to the toilet more regularly than normal, and feeling tired. She sought medical advice after admitting she had a “sixth sense” that something was wrong.
The NHS says that symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill.
More than 90% of people with the disease experience one of the following combinations of symptoms:
- a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain
- blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids)
- abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating, sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss
Constipation is rarely caused by serious bowel conditions.
The NHS recommends seeing a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.
What did she say in her latest health update?
In her most recent update posted to Instagram on Monday (9 May), James said “the time has come to say goodbye”, admitting that her body “just can’t continue anymore”.
The mum-of-two explained that her “body isn’t playing ball” and said she doesn’t know how long she has left as she opened up about her battle.
In the heartbreaking post, she wrote: “The message I never wanted to write. We have tried everything, but my body simply isn’t playing ball.
“My active care has stopped and I am now moved to hospice at home care, with my incredible family all around me and the focus is on making sure I’m not in pain and spending time with them. Nobody knows how long I’ve got left but I’m not able to walk, I’m sleeping most of the days, and most things I took for granted are pipe dreams.
“I know we have left no stone unturned. But even with all the innovative cancer drugs in the world or some magic new breakthrough, my body just can’t continue anymore.
“In over 5 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 go to secondary school - I never envisaged writing the one where I would actually say goodbye. I think it’s been the rebellious hope in me.
“But I don’t think anyone can say the last 6 months has exactly been kind! It’s all heartbreaking to be going through but I’m surrounded by so much love that if anything can help me through I hope that will.”
The former deputy headteacher announced in her post that she is setting up the Bowelbabe Fund, and shared links to charities including Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.
She wrote: “I always knew there was one thing I always wanted to do before I died. I have always over the years raised as much awareness and money for the charities that are closest to me. @cr_uk@royalmarsden@bowelcanceruk. As a result, the @bowelbabefund is being established and I’d love nothing more than for you to help it flourish. Please visit bowelbabe.org for all the info and to donate (link in Bio).
“All I ask if you ever read a column, followed my Instagram, listened to the podcast or saw me dressed as a poo for no reason. Please buy me a drink to see me out this world, by donating the cost to @bowelbabefund which will enable us to raise funds for further life saving research into cancer. To give more Deborah’s more time!
“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!
“You are all incredible, thank you for playing your part in my journey. No regrets. Enjoy life x Deborah.”
The fund name echoes her social media handle, Bowelbabe, and by early morning on 10 May it had already reached more than £800,000.