Lorraine Kelly celebrates life of 'dear friend' Dame Deborah James, who has died aged 40

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Watch: Lorraine Kelly honours life of Dame Deborah James

Lorraine Kelly has paid tribute to "wonder woman" and "dear freind" Dame Deborah James, who has died aged 40.

The cancer campaigner and mother-of-two - who was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer in 2016 – passed away peacefully on Tuesday, 28 June, surrounded by loved ones, her family has said in a statement.

Kelly, 62, dedicated her ITV show to celebrating regular Lorraine contributor Dame Deborah's life, wearing her Rebellious Hope charity t-shirt and favourite colour pink in her honour.

Read more: Dame Deborah James dies of bowel cancer aged 40

The TV presenter said: "We’re gonna celebrate, we’re gonna celebrate her life. It seems really strange, because we knew this was coming, but you kind of don’t think it’s actually going to happen because she’s bounced back so often.

Lorraine Kelly paid tribute to 'dear friend' Dame Deborah James. (ITV)
Lorraine Kelly paid tribute to 'dear friend' Dame Deborah James. (ITV)

“But what a legacy. She’s saved lives, she’s remarkable and we’re going to remember her with a lot of joy actually. And boy, would she have made some politician. She was just a woman who got things done.”

Kelly went on: “I’m still saying she is, I’m finding it quite hard to say she was. But yes, a remarkable woman…

“She was a friend of all of ours, she’s touched everybody… A real life wonder woman, a force of nature.”

Dame Deborah James was a regular contributor to the Lorraine show. (ITV)
Dame Deborah James was a regular contributor to the Lorraine show. (ITV)

Kelly added: “She remained optimistic, always looking for hope and options, and faced up to the biggest of challenges with a huge smile on her face. On even the very bad days, there was a pop of lipstick to lift the mood.

“We remember her as a dear friend of the show and as the heart and soul of our Bowel Cancer campaign. She will be so sadly missed and our thoughts are with her family at this time. Love her.”

Dame Deborah presented the BBC Radio 5 podcast You, Me & The Big C which she launched in 2018 with fellow cancer patients Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland.

Bland died aged 40 in 2018 after a two year battle with breast cancer.

Her widower Steve Bland, who also appeared on he podcast, told Kelly: “Last night was very odd, very surreal, very numb and then I was awake again at the crack of dawn this morning and it just hit me. This moment that we’ve known for five years that it’s coming.

You, Me and The Big C podcast hosts Steve Bland spoke about Dame Deborah's overwhelming positivity. (ITV)
You, Me and The Big C podcast host Steve Bland spoke about Dame Deborah's overwhelming positivity. (ITV)

“I think that makes what she’s done in those five and a half years, what she’s packed in and the people that she’s helped, and the lives that she’s saved, all the more remarkable. This was just never an easy ride for her and she’s done so much, and we’re so proud of her.”

Bland said of his own wife: “I think she [Deborah] actually took a lot of inspiration from Rachael in the way that she tackled the last five or six weeks. I know she was messaging me last week, asking about how I organised the funeral and all that kind of thing. She was just super organised and did it on her terms.

“Deb and Rachael used to talk a lot about being in denial, using denial as a really powerful tool, but I’ve always thought that actually does them a bit of a disservice, because Debs knew exactly what was happening to her, yet she starred it right in the face and lived life as hard as she possibly could, for as long as she possibly could."

Dr Hilary Jones said Dame Deborah James had succeeded in breaking the taboos around bowel cancer. (ITV)
Dr Hilary Jones said Dame Deborah James had succeeded in breaking the taboos around bowel cancer. (ITV)

And ITV's Dr Hilary Jones said: "If you want to talk about living with cancer, she is the epitome of how to live life to the full, despite a poor prognosis and outlook. She just went for it and she crammed into the last few years of her life what most people couldn’t do in a whole lifetime.”

Read more: Dame Deborah James: Adele Roberts and Julia Bradbury lead tributes to cancer campaigner

Dame Deborah was parent to son Hugo, 14, and daughter Eloise, 12, with her husband Sebastien Bowen.

She announced in May she was stopping treatment and had moved into hospice care at her parents' home.

Dame Deborah recently set up the Bowel Babe fund in her name, which will support Cancer Research UK, The Institute of Cancer Research, The Royal Marsden hospital and promoting cancer awareness among younger people. It has now raised over £6.9m.

Watch: Dame Deborah James' final words to her followers were to 'enjoy life, and check your poo'

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