Dame Deborah James says Prince William’s visit will be a ‘special memory’


By Adam Durbin

BBC News

Deborah James and her family with the Duke of CambridgeImage source, Deborah James

Image caption,

Dame Deborah said Prince William went out of his way to speak to her family

Dame Deborah James has thanked Prince William for “going above and beyond to make a very special memory” in visiting her family home to confer her damehood.

Podcaster Dame Deborah, 40, revealed last week she was receiving end-of-life care for bowel cancer, adding the five days since had been the “most surreal, mind blowing, humbling” of her life.

She has raised nearly £6m for cancer research since revealing her prognosis.

“Can’t quite believe im actually a Dame!” she wrote on social media.

Dame Deborah has received widespread praise for her no-nonsense approach to talking about her cancer publicly – particularly as co-presenter on the BBC’s You, Me and the Big C podcast – and has shared her experiences of treatment and daily life with her social media followers since her diagnosis in 2016.

The Duke of Cambridge visited the mother of two at her parents’ home, where she is spending her remaining time with her family, on Friday to present her with the honour.

Writing on Instagram, Dame Deborah said: “My family are being amazing and as emotional as it all is, we are finding so much to smile about in the sadness.”

She explained she was “getting weaker and more tired” and had been “running off pure adrenaline” over the last few days.

“But my word, I always said I wanted to slide in sideways when my time is up, with a massive smile, no regrets and a big glass of champagne! Still my intention!!!”

She launched the fund – to pay for research into personalised medicine for cancer patients and to support campaigns to raise awareness of bowel cancer, on Monday – with an initial goal of £250,000.

It came after she revealed she did not know how long she had left to live after stopping treatment and moving to hospice-at-home care.

After Prince William conferred the damehood on Friday, the former deputy headteacher wrote: she was “utterly honoured” at being joined by him for afternoon tea and champagne, adding he had “spent a generous amount of time talking to my whole family”.

“It’s quite surreal having a royal pop in at home, and yes you can imagine the cleaning antics and preparation went off the scale – but it was all irrelevant because William was so kind and he put us all at ease,” she added.

Image source, Deborah James

Prince William is a patron of the Royal Marsden Hospital, a specialist cancer treatment centre that will be one of the main beneficiaries of Dame Deborah’s new fund, alongside Cancer Research UK and Bowel Cancer UK.

After his visit, she noted the prince was “clearly passionate” about improving cancer treatment outcomes a the hospital, adding he was “welcome back anytime”.

Damehoods and knighthoods are usually announced as part of the New Year Honours or the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

But, in exceptional circumstances, some are announced at other times of the year – as happened with NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore’s knighthood.

The visit by the duke was arranged similarly quickly, as he had just returned from a two-day visit to the west of Scotland with his wife Catherine.

William and Catherine – who donated to Dame Deborah’s research fund – said earlier this week that her “tireless efforts” in raising awareness of cancer were inspirational, and thanked her for “giving hope” to those living with the disease.

Dame Deborah began co-presenting You, Me and the Big C alongside Lauren Mahon and BBC Radio 5 Live newsreader Rachael Bland in 2018, with the show earning praise for its frank discussion of cancer.

They spoke to celebrity guests and addressed practical matters, including hair loss, tips for dealing with finances and telling your nearest and dearest about illnesses.

Bland died at the age of 40, six months after the show launched. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer two years earlier.