Deborah James grateful for ‘surreal, mind-blowing’ few days as cancer donations hit £5.7m

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The podcast host Deborah James has thanked people for donating millions to charity after a “surreal” few days in which she was made a dame.

James, 40, was given the honour at her family home by the Duke of Cambridge on Friday for tireless campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

Since the news on Monday that she was receiving end-of-life hospice care, James has raised more than £5.7m for Cancer Research UK through her Bowelbabe fund on JustGiving.

Deborah James with the Duke of Cambridge at her family home on Friday.
Deborah James with the Duke of Cambridge at her family home on Friday. Photograph: Deborah James/Bowelbabe/Instagram/PA

Her original target had been £250,000. She reached the £5m milestone on Friday after donations from 240,000 supporters, including William and his wife, Kate.

The money will go to funding clinical trials and research into personalised medicine for cancer patients and supporting campaigns to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

James posted pictures of William with her and her family on her Instagram and said the visit had given her family “so much to smile about in the sadness”.

“I believe I may have had the most surreal, mind-blowing, humbling five days of my life. I cannot thank you for your generosity,” she wrote.

She thanked the Duke of Cambridge for “going above and beyond to make a very special memory happen yesterday”, adding: “Can’t quite believe I’m actually a dame.”

She said: “My family are being amazing and as emotional as it all is, we are finding so much to smile about in the sadness. I may be getting weaker and more tired … having run off pure adrenaline, but my word, I always said I wanted to slide in sideways when my time is up, with a massive smile, no regrets and a big glass of champagne! Still my intention!”

In a personal tweet written by William and Kate this week they said her work to raise awareness of the illness was inspiring.

James was diagnosed with bowel cancer shortly before Christmas 2016. Since then, the former secondary school deputy headteacher has gone on to present BBC Radio 5 live’s You, Me and the Big C podcast about the illness.

Her book Fuck You Cancer: How to Face the Big C, Live Your Life and Still Be Yourself has become a bestseller and she has also written a column for the Sun.

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Her updates on social media have attracted a following of more than 680,000 people.

On Monday she said her “body simply isn’t playing ball” and that she was having hospice-at-home care. “Nobody knows how long I’ve got left but I’m not able to walk, I’m sleeping most of the days, and most things I took for granted are pipe dreams,” she said.

When her damehood was announced on Thursday night, 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.”