Prince William and Kate's touching message amongst tributes to Dame Deborah James

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry examines Dame Deborah's rich life and legacy

Tributes have poured in for bowel cancer campaigner and podcaster Dame Deborah James, after her family announced she has died aged 40.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said she was an "inspirational and unfalteringly brave women".

In a personalised message to Dame Deborah on Twitter, they wrote: "We are so sad to hear the heartbreaking news about Dame Deborah. Our thoughts are with her children, her family and her loved ones. "Deborah was an inspirational and unfalteringly brave woman whose legacy will live on. W & C"

The Duke had visited Ms James at her parents' home in Surrey back in May to make her a dame in recognition of her fundraising efforts.

Prince William personally delivered Deborah James' damehood. Credit: Instagram/Bowelbabe

Celebrities, politicians and loved ones have paid emotional tributes to the mother-of-two - also known as BowelBabe - for her "tireless" and "inspirational" campaigning work, after she was diagnosed with the disease in 2016.

On May 9 she announced she had “tried everything” but her “body simply isn’t playing ball”. She moved into her parents' home in Woking, Surrey, to receive end-of-life care.

Sharing the news on Instagram, her family said she had "passed away peacefully" surrounded by her loved ones on Tuesday.

Her family concluded the statement: "And a few final things from Deborah… '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'."

Dame Deborah's mother Heather, whose handle on Instagram is Bowelgran, shared a series of photos of her daughter and wrote: “My heart is broken. Love you forever.”

Credit: bowelgran/Instagram
Credit: bowelgran/Instagram

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said because of Dame Deborah “many many lives will be saved”.

He tweeted: “I’m terribly saddened to hear that Dame Deborah James has died. What an inspiration she was to so many.

“The awareness she brought to bowel cancer and the research her campaigning has funded will be her enduring legacy".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Deeply sad news.

“Dame Deborah James’ charity work was truly inspirational — even in the most challenging moments, she continued to raise awareness about bowel cancer and impacted so many people’s lives.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.”

NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “On behalf of the whole NHS I would like to offer my condolences to the family and many friends of Deborah James.

“Deborah’s amazing attitude was humbling and a lesson to us all.

“Not only will her fundraising have helped countless other cancer patients but her determination to raise awareness will undoubtedly have saved many lives.”

Adele Roberts, who announced she was given the all clear from bowel cancer earlier this week, said Dame Deborah was "the best of us all" and said she was "forever grateful" for her support.

"My heart hurts," she wrote accompanied by a heartbreak emoji."Thank you for everything Deborah. Thank you for being so strong for so long and helping others when you were in so much pain yourself."

Carol Vorderman also paid tribute to Dame Deborah James, tweeting: “Rest in peace @Bowelbabe. Your incredible spirit will live on".

Activist and TV presenter Katie Piper tweeted a heart emoji, writing: "Deborah James we will never forget you".

Comedian Mark Watson tweeted: “Goodbye to @bowelbabe, a person of unbelievable tenacity who turned the worst possible situation into an opportunity to inspire and educate. RIP.”

Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, where Dame Deborah was a patron, said the podcaster had turned her diagnosis into “an incredible force for good”.

She said: “We’re deeply saddened that our patron Dame Deborah James has died, and our hearts go out to her family and everyone who knew and loved her. Deborah’s star shone bright; she was a true inspiration.

“She turned her bowel cancer diagnosis into an incredible force for good and through her tireless campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer symptoms, will have saved countless lives.

“Deborah brought warmth, energy, and honesty to everything she did. Even during her most difficult times living with bowel cancer, she never stopped helping others.

“We are truly grateful to have known Deborah and to call her our friend. She was a powerful patron for Bowel Cancer UK, and leaves a stunning legacy through her BowelBabe Fund, a testament to the love and admiration so many had for her.”

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

According to the NHS, the three main symptoms of bowel cancer are:

  • persistent blood in your poo – that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit

  • a persistent change in your bowel habit – which is usually having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny

  • persistent lower, bloating or discomfort – that's always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite and weight

The NHS says most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms such as a change in diet or haemorrhoids.

However, the NHS recommends seeing your GP if you have had any of these symptoms for three weeks or more.

Bowel Cancer UK has more information about living with and beyond bowel cancer.