Cancer mum Deborah James asks daughter if she’s scared of her dying

‘Are you scared of mummy dying?’ BBC presenter with stage 4 bowel cancer asks her daughter, nine, difficult question during an emotional broadcast

  • Deborah James, from London, was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer in 2016 
  • In new podcast, she asks her daughter Eloise, 9, how she feels about her cancer 
  • Eloise told Deborah, 37, and host Lisa Snowdon she’s not scared of mum dying 
  • Ex deputy head Deborah presents Radio 5 Live podcast ‘You, me and the Big C’

Deborah James, the BBC radio presenter who has incurable bowel cancer, has asked her young daughter if she’s scared of her mum dying in an emotional broadcast.

The mother-and-daughter discussed the difficult subject matter in a podcast with Lisa Snowdon for Fabulous magazine.

Deborah, 37, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 35, is heard asking Eloise, aged nine: ‘Do you ever worry about me dying?’. 

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Deborah James, who was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2016, recorded a podcast for Fabulous magazine with her daughter Eloise. The mother-and-daughter discussed how her mum having cancer made Eloise feel 

A recent photo of Deborah receiving treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London 

The mother-of-two pictured with her two children, Eloise, far left, and Hugo, right, on the steps of the Royal Marsden hospital

Her daughter responds clearly ‘no’ before James says: ‘Do you just get used to your mum living with cancer?’  

Eloise responds ‘Yes…and you get to go to nice places’.

During the frank podcast ‘Things I Told My Daughter’, James also discussed how she’s living with cancer, saying she’s lucky that her body is responding to treatment and her team of doctors at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital are ‘keeping a lid on’ her disease.

The former deputy headteacher was training to be a headteacher when she was first diagnosed with the condition after feeling lethargic and passing blood in her stools. 

Deborah has seen her public profile rise since her diagnosis through campaigning for better bowel cancer awareness.

Earlier this month, she confirmed she will not appear on Strictly Come Dancing this season, claiming even her family thought she would be announced as part of the line-up.

What is bowel cancer and what are the symptoms?

Bowel, or colorectal, cancer affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.

Such tumours usually develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.

Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the bottom
  • Blood in stools
  • A change in bowel habits lasting at least three weeks
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme, unexplained tiredness
  • Abdominal pain

Most cases have no clear cause, however, people are more at risk if they: 

  • Are over 50
  • Have a family history of the condition
  • Have a personal history of polyps in their bowel
  • Suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease
  • Lead an unhealthy lifestyle  

Treatment usually involves surgery, and chemo- and radiotherapy.

More than nine out of 10 people with stage one bowel cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.

This drops significantly if it is diagnosed in later stages. 

According to Bowel Cancer UK figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. 

It affects around 40 per 100,000 adults per year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The mother-of-two launched the #BowelBabeForStrictly in January in an effort to be named as a contestant for the popular dancing show. 

But yesterday Deborah took to Instagram stories to confirm she wouldn’t be joining the line-up of stars, despite being previously backed for the show by Kevin Clifton. 

She revealed some of her closest family believed she would be named as one of the contestants, saying: ‘I’m not, Mum I’m not on Strictly. I hate to break it to you.’ 

Deborah presented Radio Five Live podcast ‘You, me and the Big C’ – with late co-presenter Racheal Bland, who passed away last September, and Lauren Mahon. 

The BBC broadcaster started a campaign in January using the hashtag #BowelBabeForStrictly leading many to believe she would be chosen  

Deborah James, 37, from London, took to her Instagram stories to say she would not be a contestant on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing

Announcements have begun for the next series of the popular BBC dancing programme, which sees the latest roster of contestants slowly unveiled across the month of August. 

Four celebrities confirmed to be taking part so far, with many speculating that Deborah could be next.

Footballer David James, comedian Chris Ramsey and EastEnders actress Emma Barton were unveiled as the first three contestants on The One Show on Wednesday night, with YouTuber Saffron Barker confirmed on Thursday morning. 

The will be joined by Viscountess Weymouth Emma Thynn, who runs Longleat House with her husband; RuPaul’s Drag race judge, Michelle Visage; Paralympic champion Will Bayley; CBBC presenter Karim Zeroual, and BBC sports news presenter Mike Bushell.

Deborah with her children Hugo, 11 and Eloise, eight, presents the You, Me and the Big C podcast 


The mother-of-two denied she would be part of the line up on Instagram, and went on to say she hoped it would be possible next year 

But the campaigner, who is also known as the ‘Bowel Babe’, took to her Instagram stories to deny rumours that she’s set to join the line-up. 

Speaking while on holiday in France with her family, she said: ‘I know tonight some Strictly line up contestants, and even my nearest family believe I’m one of them. 

‘I’m not, Mum, I’m not on Strictly. I hate to break it to you.’  

She added: ‘Despite all the amazing support from you guys, it’s not going to happen.’ 

She admitted she was still hopeful to be chosen another year, but said her battle with cancer made it difficult to predict.  

Deborah took to her Instagram to say that ‘despite brilliant efforts’ she would not be taking part in the dancing competition 

She explained: ‘Whatever. Maybe next year. Unfortunately I just have to live till next year to make it happen.’ 

Appearing to hint that her cancer could have stopped her from taking part, she added: ‘This whole cancer malarkey does my head in.’  

‘For some people it takes more effort to live than others. Forget about it, i’ll carry on dancing.’ 

In January of this year the BBC presenter launched a campaign #BowelBabeForStrictly, which was backed by dancer Kevin Clifton.  

Deborah (pictured here in hospital) has undergone countless rounds of grueling treatment and operations after she was diagnosed in 2016

Deborah presents Radio Five Live podcast ‘You, me and the Big C’  – pictured here with co-presenters Racheal Bland (right) who passed away last September and Lauren Mahon (middle)

He retweeted the campaign at the time, and said he’d love to dance with the presenter. 

Deborah went on to share a snap from the campaign launch, writing: ‘Despite the brilliant efforts, an agreed partner in Kevin, incredible support – a mini try out with Anton – AND the fact that the press seem to have me in the predicted line up and late talks phase…’ 

‘I’ll just burst the bubble now and say – no – NOT going to happen! I’m as intrigued by the line up as I’m sure you guys will be.’ 

In June of this year she told runners at a charity run that her cancer was going to have to ‘work around me because I’m quite busy and I enjoy my life’.  

Deborah, who has undergone countless rounds of grueling treatment and operations discovered her condition had stabilised in March.  

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