Where can I watch Deborah James' Bowelbabe documentary? Time and channel details

The late cancer campaigner lifts the lid on her diagnosis and journey in this emotional documentary

a split template showing Bowelbabe campaigner Dame Deborah James in a swimming costume and in a hospital bed
(Image credit: Future/BBC Pictures)

The Bowelbabe documentary gives audiences an intimate look into Dame Deborah James' five year cancer journey - sharing never-before-seen footage and interviews with the lady herself.

A force to be reckoned with - Dame Deborah James will always be warmly remembered as an honest and hilarious campaigner who changed the way we think about bowel cancer. The mum-of-two worked tirelessly to raise awareness of her incurable cancer, giving insights into her life with the disease and inspiring others with similar diagnoses. Her final gift came in the form of the Bowelbabe fund - launched a month before her death last June - which continues to accept donations and has raised over £11 million for Cancer Research UK to date.

Deborah's story and legacy is once again in the spotlight this Spring with the release of new documentary Bowelbabe: In Her Own Words. The late Dame worked alongside a dedicated crew in the final few months of her life - alongside Deborah James' children and husband and Deborah James' parents - to chart her highs and lows, in a piece of television that marks and celebrates the life and achievements of the trailblazer. 

READ MORE: 'The hardest thing I've ever done' - Deborah James on the reality of telling your children you have stage four cancer

Where can I watch Deborah James' Bowelbabe documentary?

Dame Deborah James' Bowelbabe: In Her Own Words documentary will air on Monday 17 April at 9pm on BBC Two. The 80-minute special will also be available to watch on BBC iPlayer after transmission.

The documentary delves into Deborah's final five years, from her diagnosis and the development of her powerful Bowelbabe social presence to her treatment, damehood and death. "Filmed with Deborah in the last months of her life, she talks frankly about her diagnosis, treatment and shares many personal moments whilst dancing and documenting what the reality of living with bowel cancer was really like for her and those closest to her," reads the official documentary synopsis.

Lucie Kon, Commissioning Editor at BBC Storyville, explained how Deborah worked with the documentary team right up until the last few weeks of her life. Whilst sadly no longer with us, Kon says that Deborah "was adamant that it was finished" and that it air to further raise awareness. 

"It’s an incredibly powerful and beautiful piece – emotional, intimate and unique," says Kon. "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."

What happened to Deborah James aka 'Bowelbabe'?

Dame Deborah James passed away on June 28, 2022, aged 40. A month prior, the podcaster and author announced she had decided to move into end-of-life care following her fight with incurable bowel cancer for five years. 

When announcing her decision to receive respite care in May 2022, James launched the Bowelbabe Fund to raise money for UK charity Cancer Research. In the weeks following, the campaign amassed over £7 million. Her charitable efforts led to Deborah being made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II. Prince William stopped by her parent's home that same month for tea, champagne and to present Deborah with her damehood personally.

In April 2023, the Bowelbabe fund shared that the current total stands at £11.3 million. "This incredible amount of money will help give more people more time with the people they love by funding cutting-edge research, spreading the word about signs and symptoms, and smashing the stigmas around cancer," reads the Bowelbabe social media post.

The fund remains open today and still accepting donations for Cancer Research UK. You can donate via the official website.

"The reason I created [Bowelbabe] is because I felt that she was the polar opposite to the perception of somebody with bowel cancer," Deborah said. "I have the old man's cancer, but I like high heels and glitter skirts as well as the next 35 year old, so it's breaking down those perceptions of what cancer looks like.

"My statistics are hideous. [Fewer] than one in 10 people survive what I have for more than five years. So I know what I'm faced against, but I have hope. To be honest with you, I feel that if you don't have hope, then what have you got?

"Don't get me wrong, we all agree that the physical challenge is there, but the mental challenge, that's just as much in itself."

Deborah James posing in her hospital gown in a clip from her Bowelbabe documentary

(Image credit: BBC pictures)

Deborah was just 35-years-old when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2016. The former deputy headteacher quit her day job to educate and inspire other cancer patients across the world. Her campaigning included a weekly cancer column for The Sun newspaper and presenting the BBC 5 live podcast You, Me and the Big C alongside Lauren Mahon and the late Rachael Bland.

In addition to the Bowelbabe fund, Deborah launched a charity clothing line with In the Style in the last month of her life (which raised an extra £1 million) and managed to get toilet paper company Andrex to print the symptoms of bowel cancer on 29 million packs of their toilet paper.

Announcing Deborah's death back in June 2022, her family re-shared her words of wisdom to champion going forward. "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 just save your life."

Find out more about Bowel Cancer symptoms and how to check your poo for Bowel Cancer.

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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.