Dame Deborah James‘ You, Me and the Big C podcast co-host recalled grieving their fellow presenter Rachael Bland’s death in a candid new interview, as she fondly remembered her late friend.
Lauren Mahon revealed that the morning after the Welsh presenter passed away in 2018, she asked Deborah why the illness couldn’t have affected her instead.
‘I actually said to Deb the next day, “I’m the one who doesn’t have a husband and kids. Why her? Why you?”,’ she told Radio Times for the publication’s latest cover story, which shines a spotlight on Deborah’s legacy.
‘And she told me off very severely and said, “Lauren, you’re the hope – I’m glad you’re not in our situation.” That was typical of her.’
Deborah, who was made a dame by Prince William for her fundraising efforts, died last June aged 40 following a five-year battle with bowel cancer.
Lauren Mahon spoke to Radio Times for the publication’s latest cover story, which shines a spotlight on Deborah’s legacy
She had launched the Bowelbabe cancer research fund – which has now raised a whopping £11.3 million – to raise money for research into personalised medicine for patients with the disease.
The You, Me and the Big C podcast was originally hosted by Deborah, Lauren and Rachael.
The BBC programme offered a more light-hearted and conversational take on issues around cancer and how to navigate it.
Last year, Lauren opened about the ‘anguish and grief, numbness and shock’ of losing Deborah – as well as the ‘sheer elation, pride and gratitude’ at what she has achieved.
‘You can ask me how I am feeling at any point during the day, and it will be different,’ she told the Daily Mail.
‘We’ve been through something so powerful together — what we have created with the podcast has changed the way cancer is talked about and experienced in the UK.
‘The thing I’m really struggling with is that Rachael, Deb and I started this together as a threesome and the prospect of not having either of them around is difficult. I can’t get my head around it.’
The You, Me and the Big C podcast was originally hosted by Deborah (right), Lauren (centre) and Rachael (left)
Deborah (pictured), who was made a dame by Prince William for her fundraising efforts, died last June aged 40 following a five-year battle with bowel cancer
Lauren, a former social media manager who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 aged 31, and the late Rachael were the other two points of this powerhouse broadcasting triangle.
Tragically, Rachael died from breast cancer in September 2018 at the age of 40, just six months after the podcast was launched.
Rachael’s widower Steve subsequently took her place, and the podcast continued to go from strength to strength, even as Deborah navigated one cancer-related health crisis after another.
Lauren’s struggles with the illness began after she found a lump in her breast in May 2016. She let it be, hoping it would go away, until a friend urged her to get it checked.
A few weeks later, she was sitting in a breast clinic, being told that she had stage three cancer and an aggressive 2.8cm-long tumour.
Months of gruelling chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a lumpectomy followed. By the time she was given the all-clear, she had set up GirlvsCancer, a vivid, honest and relatable blog platform where women can share their stories.
Last year, Lauren opened about the ‘anguish and grief, numbness and shock’ of losing Deborah. Both pictured in 2020
Rachael’s widower Steve subsequently took her place, and the podcast continued to go from strength to strength. The trio pictured in 2019
In 2018, the site brought her to the attention of BBC journalist Rachael, who had been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in November 2016 and had come up with the idea of a podcast to raise awareness.
Being a fan of Lauren and Deborah’s work, she asked them to come on board.
It comes as Deborah this month thanked supporters for helping her raise more than £11million for bowel cancer in the final seven weeks of her life in previously unseen footage from an upcoming documentary about the campaigner.
Never-before-seen video recorded shortly before her death shows the so-called Bowel Babe telling her ‘awesome’ supporters that she is beyond grateful for their donations.
At the same time, she announced she was receiving end-of-life care and would be looked after at her parents’ home in Surrey.
Lauren, a former social media manager who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 aged 31, and the late Rachael were the other two points of this powerhouse broadcasting triangle
A new documentary about Dame Deborah’s life – titled ‘Bowelbabe: In Her Own Words’ – will air on BBC 2 in the coming weeks and give fans an intimate insight into the campaigner’s bittersweet journey from living with incurable disease, to Damehood and to her untimely death.
Deborah’s family and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) revealed that the former deputy head teacher helped raise £11.3million before she died.
She also left behind a video message expressing her gratitude over the success of her campaign and her plans for how the funds raised would be used.
‘One thing I wanted to do before I passed away was to set up the Bowelbabe fund,’ Dame Deborah said in the video. ‘I wanted to set it up to ensure that more people can benefit from some of the things that I benefited from.
‘We will ensure that more people have access to personalised medicine, clinical trials, cutting edge technology to help more and more people live longer with cancer.’
She added: ‘Every penny counts. I cannot thank you enough for your support of the Bowelbabe fund. You are awesome.’
CRUK has also announced the initial research projects that will receive Bowelbabe funding.
One study will look at laying the foundations for new precision treatment that could stop bowel cancer spread. It will be led by Professor Trevor Graham, director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research, London.
Another project, involving a team of leading scientists, will look at targeting microbes that might cause bowel cancer.
This team has already discovered a type of bacteria that increases the risk of bowel cancer in some people under 50 and is exploring whether it might be possible to target these bacteria to reduce bowel cancer risk.
A further project, led by Dr Oleg Blyuss from Queen Mary University of London, will look at using artificial intelligence and blood tests to detect the earliest signs of cancer.
At the Royal Marsden cancer hospital in London, an advanced IR X-ray machine will also offer better imaging resolution that will allow more patients to be treated.
The projects announced, collectively totalling around £4 million, are the first round of funding, with more projects due to be confirmed later this year.