“By talking about cancer, in all its guises, we make it more normal. We can break down taboos and stop people feeling embarrassed. The difference between an early and late diagnosis is the difference between life and death in many cases”
Dame Deborah James
From smashing poo taboos and glamming up for fundraisers, to sharing her story with unflinching honesty, Dame Deborah James was a bright, brilliant and beautiful campaigner for people affected by cancer. She encouraged us all to always have rebellious hope – the determination to remain hopeful, even when it might seem like there is nothing to be hopeful for.
In December 2016, age 35, Deborah was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer. Her first instinct was to shout from the rooftops about cancer, raising awareness and raising money for research. As a journalist, host of the You, Me and the Big C podcast and a tireless campaigner for a number of charities, she shone a light on the challenges faced by people living with cancer and brightened many lives in the process. Whether wearing a poo emoji costume and laughing through the hard times, or dressed to impress dancing with her kids, she made so many feel less alone.
In May 2022, Deborah announced that the time had come to stop treatment and receive palliative care at home with her family. However, defiant to the last, she was determined to still give one last, big F*** YOU to cancer. That’s why, together with her family, she set up the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK – to support causes she cared about and give more people more time with the people they love.
And your support was truly incredible. The fundraiser smashed past its target of £250k in a single day, going on to raise over £10m including Gift Aid in its first six months – a staggering amount that shows just how many people’s lives Deborah lit up.
Now, we’re going to use the money raised to stick two fingers up to cancer in true Deborah style, helping people live lives full of joy and purpose. We’ll be funding cutting-edge research into early detection and personalised medicine and raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer.
We’re proud to be continuing Deborah’s legacy to bring hope for a better future for people affected by cancer. Thank you for being part of her journey.
“...I call it rebellious hope because it goes against what the statistics say about people with my disease.
I'm rebelling against expectations about how someone in my situation should act, and I'm choosing to remain hopeful despite it perhaps seeming as though there’s nothing to be hopeful for”
Dame Deborah James