New Dame Deborah James documentary to feature unseen personal footage

Inside Dame Deborah James’ final weeks: Late cancer campaigner worked on upcoming documentary featuring unseen footage and personal voice notes right up until the end of her life

  • A new documentary on Deborah James will feature personal archive footage
  • The BBC Two’s ‘Bowelbabe: In Her Own Words’ will look at campaigner’s life 
  • READ MORE: Dame Deborah James’s husband Sebastien says he is ‘so proud’ of his late wife

A new documentary about the life of Deborah James will give fans an intimate insight into the life of the late cancer campaigner. 

The former deputy head teacher, who was known to many as Bowel Babe, passed away from bowel cancer last summer, after intimately detailing the last five years of her life online.

‘Bowelbabe: In Her Own Words’, which will air on BBC2 in the coming weeks, will capture the campaigner’s bittersweet journey from living with incurable disease, to Damehood, to her untimely death.

Filmed with Deborah in the last months of her life, viewers will see her talk frankly about the heartbreaking diagnosis and grueling treatment. 

She has also shared many personal moments whilst dancing and recounting what the reality of living with the illness was really like for her and those closest to her. 

A new documentary will feature candid never-before-seen mobile footage of the late Dame Deborah James, as well as a collation of her personal social media, BBC Two has revealed

The 80-minute programme will also archive Deborah’s collection of voice notes, Tik Tok videos, Instagram posts, ‘You Me and the Big C’ podcasts and family videos.

The social media star had been raising awareness about the disease until her death on June 28 at the age of 40 after a five-year battle with bowel cancer during which time she raised more than £7million for charity.

‘Deborah worked with us on this film right up until the last few weeks of her life and was adamant that it was finished even though she wouldn’t be around to see it through,’ Lucie Kon, Commissioning Editor, BBC Storyville said. ‘It’s an incredibly powerful and beautiful piece – emotional, intimate and unique.

‘With enormous warmth and good humour, the documentary echoes the powerful, honest and direct way that Deborah communicated, as if she were talking to a friend or confidante.’

In October, Deborah’s husband said he was ‘so proud’ of her after she inspired record numbers of people to get tested for bowel cancer.  

Sebastian Bowen remarked he was ‘in awe of everything [Deborah] did’ after she spent five years tirelessly raising awareness. 

That month, NHS figures revealed a record 30,000 more people went for referrals between May and July in 2021. Figures also showed 170,500 people were referred for checks for checks for suspected lower gastro-intestinal cancers between the months of May and July, which is nearly 80,000 higher than the same period two years ago. 

In early May, Deborah revealed she had stopped active treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey, with her husband and their two children on hand.

The former deputy head teacher, who was known to many as Bowelbabe, passed away from bowel cancer last summer

The Dame also wrote and published her second book How to Live When You Should Be Dead , while suffering from cancer, detailing how developing a positive mindset was key to enabling her to cope with her diagnosis

The podcaster was diagnosed in 2016 and kept her one million Instagram followers up to date with her treatments.

Her candid posts about her progress and diagnosis, including videos of her dancing her way through treatment, won praise from the public and media alike.

Alongside Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland, she launched the You, Me And The Big C podcast in 2018.

In the months leading up to her death, Deborah had Prince William over for tea, who made her a Dame.

Living life on her own terms despite her illness, she designed Charity T-shirts a clothing line to raise millions more for her Bowelbabe fund.

The Dame also wrote and published her second book How to Live When You Should Be Dead, while suffering from cancer, detailing how developing a positive mindset was key to enabling her to cope with her diagnosis.

She told her children to ‘take chances and experience life now’ and to marry for love in a heartbreaking final letter. 

‘BowelBabe: In Her Own Words’ – for BBC Two and iPlayer – was made by Brook Lapping, part of Zinc Media, and Executive Produced by Emma Hindley in her former role at the company. The Director was Sara Hardy and the Editor, Gwyn Jones. 


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.

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