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Deborah James honoured with damehood after raising millions of pounds

Deborah James (Alamy/PA)
Deborah James (Alamy/PA)

Podcast host Deborah James, who disclosed this week that she has moved to hospice-at-home care to treat her terminal bowel cancer, has been honoured with a damehood.

James, 40, has raised more than £3.7 million after setting up a Just Giving page to raise money for clinical trials, research, and raising awareness of bowel cancer.

The former headteacher was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her more than 500,000 Instagram followers up to date with her treatments.

On Thursday night, Number 10 confirmed that James is to be made a dame, saying: “The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of damehood be conferred upon Deborah James.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “If ever an honour was richly deserved, this is it.

“Deborah has been an inspiration and her honesty, warmth and courage has been a source of strength to so many people.

“Through her tireless campaigning and by so openly sharing her experience she has not only helped in our fight against this terrible disease, she has ensured countless others with the Big C have not felt alone.

“I hope this recognition from Her Majesty – backed I’m sure by the whole country – will provide some comfort to Deborah and her family at this difficult time. My thoughts are with them and Deborah should know she has the country’s love and gratitude.”

Speaking about the damehood, James told The Sun: “I don’t know what to say. I’m blown away and feel incredibly honoured.

“I don’t feel like I deserve this. I can’t tell you what this means to my family, it’s so much to take in.”

She told the newspaper her fund has “surpassed all expectations”, adding: “I’d love to get it to £5 million by the end of the weekend.”

James, the much-loved presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C, announced on Monday she had set up the Bowelbabe Fund.

In an Instagram post she said she did not know how long she had left, and that while the last six months had been “heartbreaking” to go through, she had been surrounded by “so much love” and had “no regrets”.

Speaking about her decision to set up the Bowelbabe fund, James wrote: “I always knew there was one thing I always wanted to do before I died.

“I have always over the years raised as much awareness and money for the charities that are closest to me. @cr_uk @royalmarsden @bowelcanceruk

“As a result, the @bowelbabefund is being established and I’d love nothing more than for you to help it flourish. Please visit bowelbabe.org for all the info and to donate (link in Bio).”

On Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said their thoughts are with James and her family.

The couple donated to the fund, and in a personal tweet written by William and Kate, they said: “Every now and then, someone captures the heart of the nation with their zest for life & tenacious desire to give back to society.

“@bowelbabe is one of those special people. Her tireless efforts to raise awareness of bowel cancer & end the stigma of treatment are inspiring.

“We are so sad to hear her recent update but pleased to support the @bowelbabef, which will benefit the @royalmarsdenNHS among others.

“Deborah, our thoughts are with you, your family and your friends. Thank you for giving hope to so many who are living with cancer. W & C.”