Bowelbabe: A BBC film about life with cancer

Samantha Redgrave-Hogg
By Samantha Redgrave-Hogg,
updated on Apr 19, 2023

Deborah James

A new BBC documentary about Deborah James’s battle with bowel cancer released on 17 April journals her determination to raise awareness about its symptoms. A touching tribute to a woman who shattered the silence of cancer

Deborah James: Bowelbabe in Her Own Words details Deborah’s intimate reality of living with cancer in the last months of her life. The documentary features unseen mobile phone footage as well as videos from her Instagram account, which has nearly a million followers.

Among the posts of her cheering on her children playing football and having fun on nights out, she opens up about the inevitable low times of living with bowel cancer, opening up candidly about the effect it had on her and her family. Heartbreaking moments made the documentary incredibly difficult to watch at times.

“I have kind of been crying for three days now and I'm starting to lose the will to live and I never ever ever say that.”

That didn’t stop her from challenging herself to be the best she could be, even gaining an honorary doctorate in recognition of her contributions to the cancer community through her podcast. In a moving speech when collecting the award, she says, “the purpose is to engage and inspire. As long as I have a purpose in what I do, as cheesy as that sounds, appreciating that purpose, it helps you through.”

We were luck enough to interview Deborah for Happiful. She spoke to us about her book "F*** You Cancer", her thoughts on mental health, and her podcast, which shatters the taboo of cancer in both an honest and entertaining way. With poo cakes and raw photoshoots, she really did break the stigma to pieces. As a result of her tireless campaigning, her Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK has raised an astonishing £7 million. The fund supports several projects Deborah feels passionate about such as The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

We at Happiful are in awe of her truly heroic endeavours and send our love to Deborah’s family and friends. If you or anyone you know has been affected by the documentary, here is some available support.

I have been diagnosed with cancer, where can I find mental health support?

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, the mental weight might seem like too much to bear. Fear, anxiety, depression, loss and shock are among many of the emotions people living with cancer might feel.

  • Speak to your GP about available support.
  • Maggie's offers psychological support, including one-to-one sessions and workshops to help people with anxiety and low self-esteem.
  • Visit Cancer Research UK for more advice.
  • Share your feelings with a trusted friend or counsellor.

My loved one is going through cancer, where can I find support?

If you are faced with the devastating news that someone you love has cancer, you may need to seek support for your mental health. Counselling Directory member, Nadia Wyatt stresses the importance of getting therapy from the beginning in her interview, Caring for a loved one through cancer.

“Do not think you can do it on your own”

Join 100,000+ subscribers

Stay in the loop with everything Happiful

We care about your data, read our privacy policy
Our Vision

We’re on a mission to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable society.