Who are Deborah James' children and what does her husband do? The late cancer campaigner's family life

Dame Deborah James' extraordinary story is being brought to screens in a documentary this Spring

A close up of Deborah James
(Image credit: Alamy)

Ahead of the Deborah James Bowelbabe documentary, many want to know more about the late campaigner, journalist and podcast host's family life.

Dame Deborah James, aka Bowelbabe, died last June at the age of 40, after being diagnosed with bowel cancer five years previously. She left behind an incredible legacy, having raised millions of pounds for Cancer Research and changed the way people talk about bowel cancer with her relentless campaigning, uplifting attitude and determination to tackle taboo.

It was recently announced that the BBC will be airing a documentary about Dame Deborah, featuring intimate footage filmed in the final weeks of her life. The 80-minute film, titled Bowelbabe: In Her Own Words, will be broadcast on Monday 17 April, and the announcement has many wanting to know more about Deborah James' life and family including her kids and husband and Deborah James' parents Heather and Alistair.

Who are Deborah James' children?

Deborah James has two children, Hugo, 15, and Eloise, 13. Hugo and Eloise co-hosted The Good Stuff podcast with their mum during the 2020 lockdown, with the aim of helping families stay positive.  

Appearing on BBC Breakfast on 6 April, her husband Sebastien said he has been taking care of their children following Deborah's tragic death. Hugo and Eloise also appeared in the interview, and talked about their mother's huge fundraising achievements.

Eloise said: "It's mind blowing, I remember having a conversation where I thought, 'Imagine if we hit £250,000 and that would be incredible.'

"Then we hit £1million and everyone was so shocked and now it's £11million - it's crazy, it's insane. Honestly, thank you to everyone."

Hugo added, "It's just unbelievable, to be honest. It's just amazing to think, first of all, the legacy that it is, and secondly the amount which could be achieved with this £11million.

"I think it's beyond what anyone could realise at this point."

In a final TV interview last year, Deborah said that creating memories for her children had become her final task, and part of her "death admin" was writing letters to them.

"I want them to have letters at milestones, and funny messages: Here’s my advice on your wedding day; what to do on a first date," she explained.

In her final column published in The Sun, Deborah wrote: "I’ve gone into mental overdrive and with the help of my husband, Seb, we have made sure that the kids have memory boxes - we’ve bought them gifts for certain key future birthdays.

"I do not want to die - I can’t get my head around the idea that I will not see my kids' weddings or see them grow up - that I will no longer be a part of life that I love so much."

Who is Deborah James' husband?

Deborah James’ husband is called Sebastien Bowen, and according to The Sun he is a banker who works for Pomona Capital. In July 2021, the couple celebrated 13 years of marriage when Deborah shared a romantic Instagram post, writing in the caption, "13 Years of marriage. My Rock."

Speaking about her death for the first time publicly on BBC Breakfast, Sebastien said: "It was just such a difficult, difficult time. It’s difficult to articulate how hard it really was.

"I think she died in probably one of the best ways that you could have hoped to die with this terrible disease. She died surrounded by her mother, her father, her sister, me, all of us holding her hand, being there for her.

"It was as much as it can be, the first time I’ve ever seen someone pass away, but I think there was a peace to it. She had done everything she could hope to achieve.

"She was surrounded by everyone who loved her, what else can you hope for really?"

Sebastien also spoke about family life since the death of Dame Deborah, saying, "I remember I said it on the day of the funeral, if we can get through this together, I think we can get through anything.

"That’s kind of stuck with us and so we’re a pretty strong unit, I like to think. When we’re together, we feel a little bit, not invincible, but definitely we’ve got each other’s back."

What did Deborah James do?

Deborah James died at just 40 years old following a battle with bowel cancer last June. She amassed a huge social media following under the persona 'Bowelbabe', which she used to educate, and raise awareness around bowel cancer.

Deborah also became a patron of the charity Bowel Cancer UK, a regular The Sun online columnist, and presented the BBC podcast 'You, Me & the Big C', which talks about living with, treatment of and other topics relating to cancer.

Shortly before her death, Deborah was made a Dame by Prince William, and set up The Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK - which has raised £11.3 million to date. 

On BBC Breakfast, Sebastien said: "It's just amazing to think, first of all, the legacy that it is, and secondly the amount which could be achieved with this £11million."

He also said, "I'm much more on the private side, but it's important to remind people to look after themselves and check their poo as Deborah would say."

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

Video of the Week

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.