Like thousands of others in the UK, Dame Deborah James had to live with the fear and uncertainty of cancer. In her case it was stage three bowel cancer, a form of the disease that's much less publicised. Cancer isn't something people like to talk about. Bowel cancer even less so.


Deborah died last summer aged 40, five years after her diagnosis. But in the intervening time her mission to raise awareness of the disease saw her start a taboo-breaking BBC podcast – You, Me and the Big C – that became the launchpad for her Bowelbabe campaign that, as of today, has raised more than £11 million for research into the disease.

What was it that made this deputy headteacher and mum of two such an inspiration? This week, BBC Two revisits her life and examines the impact she had in a powerful and poignant documentary – Deborah James: Bowelbabe in Her Own Words.

In the new issue of Radio Times magazine, we talk to her Big C co-host Lauren Mahon, Radio 5 Live presenter Tony Livesey, and her friend and fellow cancer sufferer Emma Campbell.

All of them point to her frank approach. She was determined to draw attention to her cancer, to campaign for people to be aware of the symptoms and to raise money for research into a cure. But she also refused to be defined by it. As Emma tells us: "She showed me that, among the fear and darkness, there is room for joy."

That defiance is evident in so much of whatDeborah did. It drew the admiration of many, including Prince William, who conferred on her a damehood in her parents' garden a few days before she died. The photographs of that occasion show her pride, mixed with an inevitable sadness.

The images she routinely shared on her social media – such as the one on our cover – did the same. But they also capture something else. The joy she found in living. It may have been too short, but hers was a life well lived.

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Dame Deborah James Radio Times cover

Also in this week's Radio Times:

  • Jim Moir (AKA Vic Reeves) reveals his love for birds, no longer being interested in TV, and not talking to Bob Mortimer much anymore
  • Bruno Tonioli on the "demented" contestants on Britain's Got Talent, never mincing his words as a judge, his thoughts on his lockdown exit from Strictly Come Dancing and what former BGT judge David Walliams said to him
  • Richard Armitage discusses throwing off prudishness, falling in love with his co-star Charlie Murphy in new Netflix series Obsession and his success in audio
  • Former head of Northumbria CID Neil Adamson and screenwriter Kevin Sampson talk about the new ITV drama The Hunt for Raoul Moat, the legacy of the incident, toxic masculinity, the media glare and inexplicable public support for the murderer
  • Speaking to The Radio Times Podcast: comedian and presenter Sara Pascoe on stand-up, motherhood and the difficulty of turning down work.

Bowelbabe: In Her Own Words airs at 9pm on BBC Two on Monday 17th April.


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