BBC presenter's final words before tragic death: 'Heartbroken'

BBC podcast presenter Dame Deborah James has tragically died aged 40 after a five-year battle with cancer.

Deborah, who became a fierce cancer campaigner in London following her bowel cancer diagnosis in 2016, was told by doctors she may not live past five years.

Her death was announced on Instagram, with her described as "the most amazing wife, daughter, sister, mummy".

The post announced she had passed away peacefully surrounded by her family.

Deborah James posing for the camera.
Deborah James raised $12 million for cancer research. Source: Instagram/Bowelbabe

"Deborah, who many of you will know as Bowelbabe, was an inspiration and we are incredibly proud of her and her work and commitment to charitable campaigning, fundraising and her endless efforts to raise awareness of cancer that touched so many lives," it continued.

"Deborah shared her experience with the world to raise awareness, break down barriers, challenge taboos and change the conversation around cancer.

"Even in her most challenging moments, her determination to raise money and awareness was inspiring."

Deborah's final message before death

In the post, a final message from Deborah was revealed to her followers.

"Find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo – it could save your life," her last message said.

Deborah presented BBC's podcast You, Me and the Big C: Putting the can in cancer, which she started in 2018 and hosted alongside Lauren Mahon and BBC journalist Rachael Bland.

Rachael died in 2018 from breast cancer, with her husband Steve taking over her hosting duties.

Deborah, who started the Bowebabe Fund, raised about $12 million for cancer research.

Deborah James in hospital surrounded by nurses.
Deborah James was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016. Source: Instagram/Bowelbabe

On her JustGiving page, Deborah wrote a "message I never wanted to get to" to her supporters.

"We have tried everything, but my body simply isn't playing ball. Even with all the innovative cancer drugs in the world or some magic new breakthrough, I realise that my rollercoaster ride is coming to an end very soon," she wrote.

"Your support in establishing the Bowelbabe Fund, continuing to spread the word, and smashing those poo taboos will forever be cherished."

Tributes flow for 'inspirational' woman

Many people paid tribute to Deborah and her amazing work for cancer research on social media following the devastating news.

"I wish I had the words, to equate how inspirational she has been in her life. Her grit and determination was infectious and I'm heartbroken to know the world lost someone truly incredible," blogger and author Laura Belbin wrote on Instagram.

"This is absolutely heartbreaking, we all adore you Deborah, you have made an everlasting impact on the entire world," another said.

"Her inspiration and rebellious hope will live on in all of us," a third added.

Deborah James and Prince William.
Deborah James was presented her damehood by Prince William. Source: Instagram/Bowelbabe

Deborah was presented her Damehood by Prince William at her home in May.

In the days following during a visit to Royal Marsden Hospital where she was treated, he said her "legacy is massive".

"I was very honoured to be able to speak to her," he said.

"It felt like a very personal family moment that I was there for. It was a glorious day as well.

"She is a brave and inspirational woman."

Deborah is survived by her husband Sebastian Bowen and their two children Hugo and Eloise.

Never miss a thing. Sign up to Yahoo Lifestyle’s daily newsletter.

Or if you have a story idea, email us at