You, Me And The Big C podcast host Lauren Mahon has described the death of “comeback kid” Dame Deborah James as “surreal”, speaking for the first time since her death a week ago.
Dame Deborah, known as Bowelbabe, died on June 28 aged 40, having been diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016.
She had co-hosted the You, Me And The Big C podcast with Mahon and Rachael Bland – who died in September 2018 aged 40 after treatment for breast cancer.
Mahon, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31, said she chose to speak about Dame Deborah for the first time on BBC Breakfast because that is where the trio first launched their podcast.
“I kind of really felt that I wanted to be on the sofa as this is where we launched the pod with Rachael and Deb right here, so it felt very apt that I’d chat about our wonderful friend here with you.
“I don’t think it’s really hit, we have moments where it feels very real and a bit overwhelming, but I think it is all a bit surreal.
“She was the comeback kid, so it’s all been a bit surreal,” she said.
Mahon has recounted memories of the former head teacher for an episode of You, Me And The Big C alongside Bland’s widow Steve Bland, and producers Mike Holt and Al Entwistle.
Speaking about the episode, she said: “Its about our Deb. We say quite explicitly that the world and the country are mourning the Dame, a fabulous force of nature who always looked dolled up to the nines, told it how it was, raised millions of pounds for life-saving cancer research, but the person we miss is the deviant, our Deb.
“The woman who had the most outrageous cackle, the woman who would show up to recordings dishevelled, and the twinkle in her eye.
“When we were doing the podcast it was lovely to recount the memories of our Deb. We’ve had her for so many more years than we thought we would.
“The thing is we are in one of the dark phases now, but there is so much light and there always has been. I am incredibly proud of us.”
Sitting on the BBC Breakfast sofa, podcast producer Holt joked that timing was never Dame Deborah’s “strong point”.
He said: “There was lots of times when I got these phone calls ‘I’m jumping out of a cab on a flyover in the middle of London’ and the phone would go dead but also she was wonderful.
“In the middle of the night she would be up on steroids and pounding out ideas, you had the chaos but you also had this amazing creativity, drive and passion that the whole country has seen now and it was incredible to be apart of it and I am really going to miss her.”
Wearing a T-shirt with the words “you can’t always be in bloom”, Bland told BBC presenters Sally Nugent and John Kay he felt “massive pride” with everything the three women have achieved.
He said: “Rachael set this podcast up four-and-a-half years ago now and recruited Deb and Lauren, and I don’t imagine that she in her wildest dreams thought it would have the kind of impact that it has, we are still seeing that now.
“What they have done has been extraordinary.”