Prince William has paid a heartfelt tribute to Dame Deborah James as he hailed the late campaigner for inspiring others ‘with the sheer force of her spirit’ and ‘changing the lives of so many’ after her BowelBabe fund raised more than £10million.
The Prince of Wales, who famously made the podcast host a dame when he visited her home before her death, said we all need to ‘learn from and be inspired by’ the campaigner in a pre-recorded clip shown during the Stand Up To Cancer live show.
Former headteacher Dame Deborah died at the age of 40 in June 2022, five years after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer when she found blood in her stool.
TV stars Davina McCall, Adam Hills, Joe Lycett and Munya Chawawa hosted a 90-minute takeover at The Francis Crick Institute to celebrate 10 years of the Stand Up To Cancer appeal for Cancer Research UK.
During the broadcast on Channel 4, Prince William appeared in a clip to praise Dame Deborah, nearly a year and a half after her tragic death.
Prince William visited Dame Deborah James at her family home to honour her with a damehood before her death
Prince William (pictured) has paid a heartfelt tribute to Dame Deborah James as he hailed the late campaigner for inspiring others ‘with the sheer force of her spirit’
Dame Deborah died at the age of 40 in June 2022, five years after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer when she found blood in her stool
He said: ‘Dame Deborah James was one of those special people who can unite and inspire others with the sheer force of her spirit.
‘She encouraged us all to live life to the fullest, to tackle the toughest challenges with strength and bravery and to rally together to stand up to cancer.’
Dame Deborah set up the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK which has raised more than £10million and for her efforts she was made a dame.
Her damehood was conferred by William, who joined her family for afternoon tea and champagne at home before her death last year.
Damehoods are usually handed out by members of the royal family at investiture ceremonies which take place at royal palaces, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
‘It was an honour to meet Deborah and her family and present her with her damehood,’ William continued.
‘I’ll never forget her kindness, warmth, honesty and humour in adversity. Let’s all learn from and be inspired by her passion for life.’
William said You, Me And The Big C podcast host Dame Deborah ‘truly made a difference to the lives of so many’ by breaking down taboos around having symptoms checked.
Dame Deborah set up the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK which has raised more than £10million and for her efforts she was made a dame (pictured receiving damehood at her parent’s home)
Prince William with Dame Deborah and her family when he honoured the inspirational mother-of-two with a damehood
He added: ‘In the months leading up to, and after her death, the NHS saw a substantial increase in the number of people being referred for bowl cancer checks in England.
‘Millions of pounds are raised in Deborah’s name for the BowelBabe fund for Cancer Research UK and associated charities which would have given more people affected by cancer more time with the people they love.
‘Deborah’s legacy continues to help break down stigma’s and ultimately help people live longer lives.’
During the show, host Davina McCall also spoke with Dame Deborah’s parents Heather and Alistair, who said she ‘loved’ the day William visited her.
Alistair said: ‘Prince William, Deborah’s husband, Deborah, they are all from the same generation, they are all within two or three years of each other and so when he was with them it was people of the same age group talking with a common theme.’
Meanwhile, Heather said Dame Deborah’s children, Eloise and Hugo, are coping well a year after their mother’s death.
She said: ‘They’re doing really well but I think that’s because Deborah prepared them, along with Seb, they knew all along Mummy had limited time and towards the end they were there with her the whole time and I think amazing.
William said You, Me And The Big C podcast host Dame Deborah ‘truly made a difference to the lives of so many’ by breaking down taboos around having symptoms checked. This was the photo her family used when they announced her death
Dame Deborah was made a dame by Prince William for her ‘tireless’ work improving awareness of the disease
‘I am so proud of them how they are coping with it and Deborah said to them ‘don’t use me dying as an excuse to mess up your life’.’
In July, Eloise, 13, revealed that she was ‘walking in mummy’s footsteps’ by raising money for her mother’s BowelBabe fund.
Fashion-obsessed Eloise has launched her own In The Style collection which will raise money for the Bowelbabe Fund.
Eloise has revealed that every piece is inspired by her mother, who had designed her very own collection just weeks before her tragic death.
‘I am so excited and proud to be able to do this,’ Eloise told The Sun at the time. ‘I’m walking in my mum’s footsteps and following the path she set for me.’
Eloise’s father Sebastien Bowen said that what his daughter is doing is ‘exactly’ what his wife would have wanted. Seb, who is also a father to 15-year-old Hugo, added: ‘I am incredibly proud and I know Deborah would be too.
‘It’s exactly what she wanted for Ellie, and it’s a lovely example of how she was determined to do things in those last weeks to set the kids up for later in life.’
Seb added that he wanted to make sure that the Bowelbabe Fund, the children and the family had ‘something really positive to focus on’ after her heartbreaking battle with cancer.
Dame Deborah James’s daughter is proud to say that she is ‘walking in mummy’s footsteps’ by raising money for her mother’s Bowelbabe Fund. Pictured: Dame Deborah and her daughter Eloise
Dame Deborah told her children Eloise (L) and Hugo (R) to ‘take chances and experience life now’
Eloise’s father Seb (second from left) said that what his daughter is doing is ‘exactly’ what his wife would have wanted
It was May 9 last year when the mother-of-two shared a devastating ‘goodbye’ message to her Instagram followers, revealing she was being moved into hospice-at-home care at her parents’ house, while ‘surrounded by family’, because ‘my body simply isn’t playing ball’.
While she said at the time that no one knew how long she may live, she had revealed she was given just days when she was released from hospital in May 2022. She died on June 28.
At the time of her death, Dame Deborah had raised an astonishing £7million for cancer research. Her target was to raise £250,000 but today it stands at £11.3million as her legacy continues.
Dame Deborah intimately detailed the last five years of her life online.
Her candid posts about her progress and diagnosis – including videos of her dancing her way through treatment – won praise from the public and media alike.
Dame Deborah told her children to ‘take chances and experience life now’.