The fundraiser set up by cancer-stricken BBC podcaster Deborah James has now surpassed an incredible £3million – as the tragic presenter prepares to spend her final hours on her lawn surrounded by family.
The 40-year-old announced earlier this week in a heartbreaking message that active treatment for her bowel cancer was stopping and that she was moving to hospice at home care.
The nation has been moved by her tragic story in recent days, with at least £1million in donations now being made every day made on the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK page she set up.
Ms James spoke of wanting to die at her parents’ house in Woking, to spare son, Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, from constant reminders in their London home.
She explained how she’d had to break the news to the children, but put her full faith in husband Sebastien Bowen – a London banker she married back in 2008.
The couple briefly split up seven years later and began divorce proceedings, but soon got back together after agreeing to counselling to be on better terms for their children.
Speaking to the Times today, she said: ‘My husband Sebastien has been incredible, he has dropped everything and is with me 24/7. My first thought was [that] I don’t want my children to see me like this. I didn’t think I would be able to speak to them without crying, but I’d love one last cuddle with them.
Deborah James (pictured), 40, announced earlier this week in a heartbreaking message that active treatment for her bowel cancer was stopping and that she was moving to hospice at home care
Deborah James spoke of wanting to die at her parents’ house in Woking, to spare son, Hugo, 14, and daughter, Eloise, 12, from constant reminders in their London home
The nation has been moved by her tragic story in recent days, with at least £1million in donations now being made every day made on the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK page she set up. Today it surpassed £3million (pictured).
Deborah James explained how she’d had ‘hard conversations’ with the children, but put her full faith in husband Sebastien Bowen – a London banker with whom she has been married more than 13 years
‘I don’t think I have ever seen my husband so emotional; but now he has suddenly realised the enormity of this. I have given him strict instructions: I want him to move on. He’s a handsome man, I’m, like, ‘Don’t be taken for a ride, don’t marry a bimbo, find someone else who can make you laugh like we did [together]’.’
The heartbreaking interview also revealed how she will record letters for her children to open after she’s died, including advice for them on how to act on a first date or what to do on their wedding day.
Ms James said she’s been in hospital for months, but since undergoing hospice care, she has been planning her last hours on the lawn with her family and drinking champagne, as staff joked with her: ‘You are dying, you can drink what you like.’
Charities and organisations set to benefit from the fundraising have lined up to thank her for her efforts.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive at Cancer Research UK said: ‘Since being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, Deborah James has shown an incredible commitment to campaigning, fundraising and raising awareness of cancer.
‘Even in this most challenging time, her determination to raise money and awareness is inspiring and we’re honoured to be supporting Deborah and her family in establishing the Bowelbabe Fund.
‘This fund will raise awareness of cancer alongside funds for clinical trials and research into personalised medicine, with the aim of creating new and kinder treatments for cancer patients and giving them more time with their loved ones.
BBC podcast host Deborah James, who has incurable bowel cancer, previously choked back tears today as she thanked everyone who donated to her cancer fundraiser that raised a staggering £2.5 million. Today it surpassed £3million.
‘The fund will support the work of Cancer Research UK and those causes she and her family are passionate about, for example Bowel Cancer UK, The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden.
‘We’ve been overwhelmed by the support for the Bowelbabe Fund so far, massively exceeding its target within hours. It’s a true testament to how many people’s lives Deborah has touched with her honesty, humour and compassion.’
A spokesperson from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity added: ‘Deborah is an absolute inspiration to so many people with cancer, and a passionate supporter of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. It’s typically selfless of her to spend what precious time she has left fundraising for us, Cancer Research UK and Bowel Cancer UK.
‘The Bowel Babe Fund will, as Deborah has set out, help fund clinical trials and research into personalised medicine for cancer patients and supporting campaigns to raise awareness of bowel cancer. This may include developing new drugs, and new ways of diagnosing cancer at an earlier stage.
‘As well as this fundraising legacy, Deborah’s work over the last five years to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer and the importance of early diagnosis in improving survival, will have saved and extended countless lives.’
Ms James had earlier spoken of her connection with her family to the BBC, saying they were ‘really loving’ and that she ‘adored’ them.
Ms James told the BBC: ‘I have a really loving family who I adore. Honestly, they’re incredible and all I knew I wanted was to come here and be able to relax knowing that everything was okay.
‘I’ve had some really hard conversations during the last week. You think, ‘Gosh, how can anyone have those conversations?’ and then you find yourself in the middle of them.
‘And people are very nice, but you’re talking about your own death and I’ve had five years to prepare for my death.’
The interviewer told the mother-of-two, ‘I know it’s not easy’, as she struggled to speak around her tears, to which he eventually replied: ‘It’s hard. It’s really hard.
‘The thing that I know, because I trust my husband – he’s just the most wonderful man and so is my family, and I know that my kids are going to be more than looked after and surrounded by love.
‘You always want to know as a mother – are your kids going to be okay? And my kids are going to be fine. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to miss every chance I could have had with them.’
Remembering her former podcast co-host Rachael Bland, who died of breast cancer in 2018, Ms James told the BBC: ‘ I’m really scared. I don’t know how she could deal with such a ‘this is what I’m going to do’ [approach], I’m petrified.
‘I can’t make a deal with the devil anymore unfortunately. I just feel gutted not to have more life, ‘cos you know me, I love life so much.
‘But I do hope that all of our stories and the podcast and everything we’ve shared over the past few years has saved lives.
‘I just knew that I wanted to ensure I could leave enough money for them to do something meaningful, that would mean that we could fund projects that I myself would have benefited from 5 years ago to give me life.
The former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner, 40, who has won plaudits with her BBC 5 Live podcast You, Me and the Big C, previously said she was ‘utterly blown away’ by the generosity of those who had backed the fundraising drive. The mother-of-two, who has been living with stage four bowel cancer since she was diagnosed in December 2016, announced the ‘Bowelbabe Fund’ for Cancer Research yesterday while also revealing she was being moved into hospice at home care
‘Because you just never know do you, when that next breakthrough is going to come, but I know we have the skills and passion in this country to make things happen, but we just need to fund it properly.’
Ms James told host Tony Livesey how she was still making her way through a list of ‘death admin’ she needed to do, but the priority was remaining as comfortable as possible.
‘I can’t walk, I can’t stand, I can’t go to the loo – I can’t do really basic stuff. I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping. Just spending time watching people that I love, to just know that they are okay.
‘The more I tell myself that they are going to be okay, I know they are surrounded by love. I know they are surrounded by support – they will be fine.’
Signing off tearfully in the final episode of her podcast, she told listeners: ‘That’s it from me, I can’t believe it, which is a very sad thing to say. I’m pleased I’ve got to the point where I can say it. We’ll see each other again, somewhere, somehow, dancing. Until then, please, please, just enjoy life because it’s so precious. All I want right now is more time and more life.’
She then joked: ‘And check your poo. I can’t leave on any other word except from check your poo.’
It came after she said she is is preparing to ‘surrender to the inevitable’ and is in end-of-life hospice care surrounded by her family, in a heartfelt ‘final’ newspaper column. Ms James wrote that her body had been left ’emaciated’ by five years of battling bowel cancer.
Ms James – who has incurable bowel cancer – told the BBC that setting up a fund towards cancer treatments had been something she had always wanted to do. ‘Ultimately, what I really want to happen is I don’t want any other Deborahs to have to go through this,’ she said.
‘We know that when we catch cancer early, we can cure it. We know that much more investment needs to take place in cancer. We know that we have the skills and the passion in the UK to do so. But I just feel that, we still need that reminder, that boost and that money.
‘And so before I died, the one thing I knew I wanted to do was set up a fund that can continue working on some of the things that gave me life, such as the innovative drug studies, because if it wasn’t for some of the drugs that I was put on early – that gave me two years of extra life and that could be somebody else’s life.’