Dame Deborah James, teacher, writer and broadcaster who worked to demystify the bowel cancer she suffered from – obituary

During this time she published a second book, How to Live When You Could be Dead (2021), urging her readers to “live in the present and value one day at a time”.

Deborah Anne James was born on 1 October 1981, one of three children born to Alistair James and his wife Heather (née Yeatman), and grew up in Woking, Surrey; his siblings were Sarah and Ben. Young Deborah was known for her fiery temper. “My dad refused to keep a knife block in the house when we were kids, which I think says a lot,” she wrote. Tragedy struck the family in their late teens when their 18-year-old cousin was killed in a car crash.

She studied economics at the University of Exeter, where she was known to enjoy nights on the town, and took up teaching. Eventually she became assistant principal at the Salesian School in Chertsey, Surrey, specializing in IT and e-learning, before being parachuted in to help turn around Matthew Arnold School in Staines-upon-Thames.

She helped lead national research on “growth mindsets” in schools and was on a crash course to become a school leader. It all came to a halt as she became more of a poster child for the cancer community, a strange and unwanted honor that she often struggled to understand.

In May 2022, Deborah James announced she was receiving palliative care at home and over the next 48 hours over £3million was raised for her Bowelbabe fund. Two days later, she was appointed DBE; her womanhood was bestowed by Prince William at her home. Within weeks, the sum raised had exceeded £6 million.

In 2008, Deborah James married Sébastien Bowen, a French banker working in private equities. He survives her with their two children, Hugo and Eloise.

Dame Deborah James, born October 1, 1981, died June 28, 2022