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‘Incredible force for good’ – TV stars and charities in tribute to Deborah James

Dame Deborah James, with her husband Sebastien Bowen (The Harkness Rose Company/PA)
Dame Deborah James, with her husband Sebastien Bowen (The Harkness Rose Company/PA)

Figures from the worlds of TV, radio, politics and charity have hailed Dame Deborah James as an “incredible force for good” after her death aged 40.

The podcaster’s death from bowel cancer on Tuesday was announced by her family, prompting tributes from across many sections of society.

Gaby Roslin, Charlotte Hawkins and Carol Vorderman were among those from the broadcasting world who shared messages online.

TV presenter Roslin tweeted: “Bye bye my beautiful friend Deborah.

“You will forever shine so brightly. Thank you for all you did. For the laughter, the dancing and most importantly for all you did in your short lifetime for others.

“My love to all of the family. Just so heartbreaking.”

Good Morning Britain host Hawkins tweeted: “Oh no… heartbreaking news that @bowelbabe has left us. What an inspiration, a truly special person who saved lives & did so much to help others.

“Who showed that even a terminal diagnosis wasn’t going to stop her living life to the full. So much love to her family & friends.”

Vorderman added: “Rest in peace @Bowelbabe. Your incredible spirit will live on.”

Dame Deborah launched the You, Me And The Big C podcast on Radio 5 Live in 2018 alongside Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland.

BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “This is incredibly sad news. Dame Deborah James was a true inspiration.

“We’re so proud to have worked with her at the BBC. The way she talked about and faced up to her cancer moved the nation, inspired change and undoubtedly saved lives.

“Our deepest sympathies are with her family, friends, followers and her 5 Live family.”

BBC Radio 5 Live controller Heidi Dawson added: “As colleagues and friends, we are all heartbroken at Radio 5 Live. Our deepest condolences are with her family.

“Dame Deborah James inspired a national conversation with You, Me And The Big C that has impacted millions of people.

“She was a naturally talented broadcaster, so funny, with a blunt honesty.

“She had the most incredible energy, a magnetism that drew you towards her.

“The messages from her listeners show the incredibly special connection she made.

“We were privileged to have her share so much with us all.

“Deb – and the legacy she leaves behind – will forever be a treasured part of our station.”

Tributes also came from the bowel cancer charities that benefited from her work.

A tweet from Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We are so sad to hear that Deborah James has died, and our thoughts are with her family and many friends.

“Deb has been an inspiration to us all. We’re so grateful for all of her generous support over the years, and her dedication to stand together with people with cancer.”

Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, where Dame Deborah was a patron, 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.”

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said in a statement: “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.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Rest in peace Deborah James. What an incredible, fierce, bright and brilliant woman.

“An absolutely extraordinary campaigner. Thank you for your rebellious hope and the millions you have inspired @bowelbabe. Thinking of your many loved ones.”

Comedian Mark Watson said Dame Deborah was “a person of unbelievable tenacity who turned the worst possible situation into an opportunity to inspire and educate”.

In her final weeks, Dame Deborah raised more than £6.7 million for research through her BowelBabe fund and was made a dame for her “tireless” work improving awareness of the disease.