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William and Kate pay tribute to ‘inspirational’ Deborah James following her death

Deborah James (left) and Steve Bland (Ian West/PA)
Deborah James (left) and Steve Bland (Ian West/PA)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have paid tribute to Dame Deborah James as an “inspirational and unfalteringly brave woman whose legacy will live on”.

The podcast host and mother-of-two, who became known as Bowelbabe, her social media handle, died on Tuesday aged 40 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016.

She has since been remembered by charities, celebrities and many whose lives have been affected by cancer.

Dame Deborah’s damehood was personally conferred by William in early May during a surprise visit to her parents’ house, where he joined her family for afternoon tea and champagne.

He and Kate said in personal signed message on Twitter: “We are so sad to hear the heartbreaking news about Dame Deborah. Our thoughts are with her children, her family and her loved ones.

“Deborah was an inspirational and unfalteringly brave woman whose legacy will live on. W & C”

BBC TV presenter George Alagiah, who was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in 2014, said Dame Deborah was “a beacon, lighting the way for us all of us #livingwithcancer”.

He tweeted: “Knowing that @bowelbabe Dame Deborah James was nearing the end of her journey here does not make her passing any easier to accept. She was a beacon, lighting the way for all of us #livingwithcancer. Thank you for your example. Deborah, rest in peace now.”

According to Genevieve Edwards, the chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, Dame Deborah leaves a “tremendous legacy”.

Ms Edwards told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “She never stopped raising awareness. Bowel cancer is something people find difficult to talk about often and don’t really … they find it a little bit embarrassing.

“She’s stripped all of that away and shone a powerful light on it.”

Teresa Whitfield, who was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer after seeing Dame Deborah talking about symptoms on TV, told the programme that the podcast host had saved her life.

Asked what she would say to Dame Deborah’s family, Ms Whitfield, who is now cancer-free, said: “I think I actually have only one word which is thank-you.

“Without her, I don’t think I would be here today. Her campaigning is critical and we, as bowel cancer patients, as bowel cancer survivors, and as anybody who thinks they might have bowel cancer, we have to carry on with the legacy that she has.

“We have to carry on campaigning to raise awareness.”

Dame Deborah died on Tuesday after spending her final weeks receiving end-of-life care at home with her husband, Sebastien, and their two children.

In her final weeks, Dame Deborah – a presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C – raised almost £7 million for research and was made a dame for her “tireless” work improving awareness of the disease.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said the money would support “causes and projects that Deborah was passionate about, including working with others such as the Institute of Cancer Research, The Royal Marsden and Bowel Cancer UK.