Deborah James, host of Big C podcast, honoured with damehood

By Mary O'Connor
BBC News

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Media caption,
Watch: Deborah James "can't really do anything more" to fight cancer

Podcast host Deborah James has been honoured with a damehood just days after revealing she is receiving end-of-life care for her bowel cancer.

The mother-of-two has raised more than £4m since Monday, when she launched a fund for others with cancer after announcing she had stopped treatment.

The host of the BBC's You, Me and the Big C podcast said she was "blown away and crying" at being made a dame.

Dame Deborah, 40, is now being cared for at her parents' home.

Damehoods and knighthoods are usually announced as part of the New Year Honours or the Queen's Birthday Honours. But, in exceptional circumstances, some are announced at other times of the year - as happened with Captain Sir Tom Moore's knighthood.

Downing Street confirmed the granting of the honour in a press release, which said: "The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of Damehood be conferred upon Deborah James."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "If ever an honour was richly deserved, this is it. Deborah has been an inspiration and her honesty, warmth and courage has been a source of strength to so many people.

"Through her tireless campaigning and by 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 began co-presenting You, Me and the Big C alongside Lauren Mahon and BBC Radio 5 Live newsreader Rachael Bland in 2018, with the show earning praise for its frank discussion of cancer.

They spoke to celebrity guests and addressed practical matters, including hair loss, tips for dealing with finances and telling your nearest and dearest about illnesses.

Bland died at the age of 40, six months after the show launched. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer two years earlier.

Dame Deborah has been praised for her no-nonsense approach to talking about cancer online, and has shared her experiences of treatment and daily life with her social media followers since her diagnosis in 2016.

Image caption,
James co-hosted You, Me and the Big C with Rachael Bland (left) and Lauren Mahon (centre)

In an Instagram post on Monday, she revealed she did not know how long she had left to live after stopping treatment and moving to hospice-at-home care.

The former deputy headteacher said her liver had stopped working over the past six months and doctors had advised that more treatment was "fruitless", adding her "body does not want to play ball".

The podcaster told the BBC's Graham Satchell she had gone to her parents' home to spend her remaining time with her family because it was "where I always wanted to die".

She explained this meant their family home in London could remain home for her children without the "medical equipment scars" in their memories.

She also announced the Bowelbabe fund, to fund research into personalised medicine for cancer patients and to support campaigns to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

The fund, named after her online social media handle, surpassed £1m in less than 24 hours - smashing her initial goal of £250,000.

Prince William and Catherine - who donated to James' research fund - praised her "tireless efforts" in raising awareness of cancer as inspirational, and thanked her for "giving hope" to those living with the disease.