Dame Deborah James: Late campaigner’s dad pays tribute as daughter awarded honorary degree

·2-min read
Dame Deborah James with her book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead ( Deborah James/PA)
Dame Deborah James with her book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead ( Deborah James/PA)

Dame Deborah James’s dad has paid tribute to the late campaigner as he collected a posthumous honorary degree recognising her effort to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

Dame Deborah, known by her online handle of ‘Bowel Babe’, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the Institute of Cancer Research, which was accepted by her dad, Alistair.

The late campaigner, who passed away in June aged 40 of bowel cancer, raised millions for cancer charities.

Accepting the award on his daughter’s behalf, Alistair said: “When Deborah was invited to accept today’s degree she was honoured and proud.

Deborah James aka the Bowel Babe

Dame Deborah James and her brother Benjamin James attend Royal Ascot 2022 at Ascot Racecourse on June 15, 2022 in Ascot, England. (Dave Benett)
Dame Deborah James and her brother Benjamin James attend Royal Ascot 2022 at Ascot Racecourse on June 15, 2022 in Ascot, England. (Dave Benett)
We are proud to introduce the Dame Deborah James Rose in honour of @bowelbabe (World of Roses )
We are proud to introduce the Dame Deborah James Rose in honour of @bowelbabe (World of Roses )
Deborah James remained in high spirits despite her situation (Deborah James)
Deborah James remained in high spirits despite her situation (Deborah James)
(@bowelbabe / Instagram)
(@bowelbabe / Instagram)
Dame Deborah James, with her husband Sebastian Bowen, during a private tour at the Chelsea Flower Show (The Harkness Rose Company/PA) (PA Media)
Dame Deborah James, with her husband Sebastian Bowen, during a private tour at the Chelsea Flower Show (The Harkness Rose Company/PA) (PA Media)
(Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James )
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James )
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James)
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James)
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James)
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James)
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James)
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James)
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James )
Deborah James has shared a photo of her meeting with Prince William as the royal presented her with her Damehood. (Deborah James )

“But this was mixed with a sense of sadness as she realised it was one of the first entries in her diary that she was unlikely to fulfil.

“However, in recognition of what this award meant to her, Deborah was clear in her wishes that her family should be here today on her behalf and to give thanks to the institute and staff for its work and the honour bestowed upon her."

Attending the ceremony alongside Alistair was Dame Deborah’s mum Heather, brother Benjamin and sister Sarah.

Lauren Mahon and Steve Bland, cost-hosts of the BBC You Me and the Big C podcast with Deborah, were also recognised for their “outstanding contribution to raising awareness of living with cancer and the importance of cancer research”.

Mr Bland, whose wife, Rachael, a BBC broadcaster, passed away from breast cancer in 2018, said it was “bittersweet”.

Writing on Instagram, he said: “Can’t tell you how humbling and overwhelming it was to be on the stage watching all the graduates get their degrees and hearing about all the incredible work they’re doing and are going to do.

“It’s so exciting to see so many amazing, passionate young people who want to create a better future for people with cancer.”

Dame Deborah’s posthumously published book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, debuted at No 1 in the UK upon its release several weeks ago.

After announcing she was receiving end-of-life care in early May, she completed the book at her parent’s home, co-writing the final chapters with her husband, Sebastien Bowen.

For every copy sold in the UK, £3 will go to Dame Deborah’s BowelBabe Fund for Cancer Research UK, which has so far raised £7.5 million through its online fundraiser.