Rebellious hope – Reflecting on the legacy of Dame Deborah James

Rebellious hope – Reflecting on the legacy of Dame Deborah James

Credit: Dan Williams / The Sun / News Licensing

Here on the Community team, we were all very saddened to hear that Dame Deborah James had passed away from Bowel cancer at the end of June. After spending some time reflecting on what she meant to those affected by Bowel cancer, and thinking about her amazing legacy, we wanted to dedicate today’s Community News Blog to Deborah and all those who knew and loved her.

Deborah was an incredible inspiration to so many and fought to raise awareness of Bowel cancer and the vital importance of breaking the taboo around talking about poo.

Our Community members were understandably impacted by Deborah’s passing. Below are some of the many tributes for Deborah our members posted. We hope you will join us in keeping her family and loved ones in your thoughts at this time.

“What an inspirational woman for all us bowel cancer warriors she just gave so much positivity and hope to us all.” Community member, Bowel (colon and rectal) cancer forum

“She wanted everyone to enjoy life and talk about poo. We all need to follow her example.” - Community member, Bowel (colon and rectal) cancer forum

“Proud of her unfaltering efforts of fundraising that has now broken through the 7 million pounds barrier. She had set out to raise £250k and through a massive media campaign, that target was obliterated and because of her enthusiasm in raising such a massive amount.

She has highlighted the dangers of not reacting quickly enough when signs of bowel cancer are ignored. I for one will be checking my poo from this day forward.”Community member, Living with incurable cancer – patients only forum

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank her publicly for the mountains of advocacy, education and not to mention style and spirit she has brought to the world of bowel cancer. We will continue to hold her in our hearts and thoughts”Community member, Bowel (colon and rectal) cancer forum

Check your poo

As well as raising an incredible amount of money to fund clinical trials and research through the Bowelbabe fund, many people have said that Deborah saved their lives by raising awareness of the early signs and symptoms of Bowel cancer by encouraging us all to check our poo.

To find out more about what we need to know about poo, and when to see the GP, Paul from our Cancer Information team has put together a blog about the Symptoms of Bowel cancer

Don’t let embarrassment get in the way of your health. In the words of Deborah, “Check your poo - it could save your life.”

Poo is not a taboo

In memory of Deborah, we wanted to shine a light on, and celebrate, conversations on those more difficult topics that some people may find to be taboo.

Our Community is a safe space where members can talk about anything they may be going through - judgement free. We know that Cancer can have an impact on many different aspects of life, and anything that is affecting you, physically or mentally, is important.

You deserve the time and space to talk about it, whether that is by posting in our discussion forums, or asking questions in our ‘ Ask an Expert’ sessions – the Community is a judgement free space.

“Please just ask if you have any questions, we’re an open friendly group here & no question is too personal! I’ve spoken about my bottom & poo to more people than you can imagine over the last 4 years, nothing is taboo here.”  Community member Anal cancer forum

“Anal Cancer and the side effects of treatment can be hard to talk about. We do our best on here to remove taboo’s by talking openly about sensitive subjects. It helps to normalise things.” Community member – Anal cancer forum

Breaking down taboos together

Not only can it help to be curious, ask questions, and share what you are going through when talking about those more “taboo” topics, speaking about more difficult topics can help break down taboos, normalise how our bodies work, and help show others they are not alone.

Let’s all help each other to break down these taboos and talk openly about anything that may be worrying us.

“Because YOU wrote this post and showed me that there is a possibility of intimacy after such a devastating diagnosis and procedure that you had...I feel a bit more positive that someday I may be able to be held and touched again.
Thank you for bringing up this taboo subject and sharing your story...You helped this girl!” Community member – Breast cancer forum

“It's absolutely fine to talk about sex here. It's all part and parcel of life with, and without, cancer - and affects people in all sorts of ways.” Community member, Living with incurable cancer – patients only forum

“Can I say how much I’ve appreciated you speaking on such a “taboo” topic and helping others like me talk more honestly, even though it’s from a different perspective.”Community member, Bladder cancer forum

“Oh the joy of our bladder cancer forum, we just share it all don't we? No taboo subjects in this game.” Community member, Bladder cancer forum

“Sorry for the graphic details, but if it can reassure you, you are not alone and it seems that this is still a taboo subject.” Community member Ileostomy, colostomy and stoma support

Whatever you are going through there is no judgement on our Community. Talking about all those complicated, difficult and ‘taboo’ seeming subjects is so important. Asking questions and seeking medical support for any concerns you have about your body could help to save your life - it can also help to break down those stigmas and show others they are not alone.

Support for those affected by bowel cancer

We wanted to finish today with some resources for those who are affected by bowel cancer:

Peer support

Questions about Bowel cancer

  • Our Macmillan specialists are here for help answer any questions you may have about bowel cancer, as well as provide emotional support and guidance on how to cope with the affects of cancer.
  • Why not post a question in our ‘Ask an Expert’ session here on our Community?
  • You can also contact Macmillan Specialist teams 7 days a week 8am-8pm on our Support Line by calling freephone 0808 808 00 00, or connecting via our live webchat facility.

Information about Bowel cancer

  • On our Macmillan website, we have lots of information about Bowel cancer on our dedicated Cancer information pages.
  • We also have a brand-new set of information videos all about Bowel cancer, follow the links below to take a look.

Spotting the symptoms of bowel cancer
Being diagnosed with bowel cancer
How bowel cancer is staged
Being treated for bowel cancer
Follow up care for bowel cancer

Organisations providing support on Bowel cancer

Can’t find the information and support your looking for today? Simply comment below, or email the team at and we’ll help as best we can.

Whatever you are going through, you are not alone.

‘Find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo - it could save your life.’ – Dame Deborah James