Wearside cancer charity founder 'heartbroken' at death of 'Bowel Babe', Dame Deborah James

Dame Deborah James. Credit: Instagram

The Wearside founder of a charity which helps people with cancer has paid tribute to his friend Dame Deborah James.

Dame Deborah was a campaigner and podcast host who raised millions of pounds for cancer research after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, when she was 35-years-old.

Her family have announced that she died from the disease at the age of 40.

Ryan Riley, who set up the charity Life Kitchen for people whose taste has been affected as a result of the disease, described himself as heartbroken by the news.

In a tweet, he said: "Utterly heartbroken to lose my friend Dame Deborah James tonight, an icon, a fierce advocate for truly living with cancer and the most incredible woman."

Mr Riley also used the platform to comment on a message he had received from someone who found out about Life Kitchen through Dame Deborah's work.

He said: "She was always connecting people and doing what she could for anyone."

Dame Deborah became famous under the name Bowelbabe for her podcasting and journalism detailing what life with cancer was like and raising awareness of the symptoms. 

By using humour to de-stigmatise bowel cancer, she and her podcast co-hosts Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland won acclaim for supporting others battling the disease. 

On 9 May, she announced that her active care had stopped and she was receiving end-of-life care.

Soon afterwards, Prince William travelled to her home to present her with her damehood.

She is survived by her husband and two children.

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.

Stay up to date with our podcast: