‘I am so proud of you’: Dame Deborah James’ husband reveals touching final words to the £7million bowel cancer campaigner before she died
- Husband Sebastian told his terminally ill wife he would ‘look after the kids’ as she was on her deathbed and said she had an ‘incredibly peaceful death’
- ‘I kissed her on the head,’ he said in his first interview since she died in June
- He stood by her side as she campaigned to raise £7.4million for fighting cancer
‘I am so proud of you’ were the touching last words Dame Deborah James‘ husband Sebastian said to his dying wife, he revealed in his first interview since the charity campaigner died of bowel cancer.
Her last moments were spent holding the hands of her husband, who stood by her side as she campaigned to raise £7.4million while battling against the illness to which she succumbed on June 28.
‘I kissed her on the head,’ Sebastian told his terminally ill wife, speaking of their parting words to The Sun.
‘I told her how much I loved her, that I would look after the kids and the last thing I said to her was that I was so proud of her. Then she slipped away.’
The journalist was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer, going on to host You, Me and the Big C podcast on BBC Radio 5 Live about her struggles with her illness.
Back in May, the mother of two was given just days to live. But Deborah fought her way through another two full months, defying the odds to spent her final weeks with her children and husband out of hospital.
She had an incredibly peaceful death, her husband added.
Dame Deborah James’ husband Sebastian told his terminally ill wife he would ‘look after the kids’ as she was on her deathbed and said she had an ‘incredibly peaceful death’.
Deborah is pictured with her 12-year-old daughter Eloise, left. Her father Sebastien says he feels a responsibility to carry on his wife’s positive outlook for their children
Deborah smiles and holds her thumb up in a final farewell from hospital, maintaining her positive spirit up until her last moments
‘People who didn’t know Debs saw her getting weaker and weaker in those final weeks,’ he said. ‘But mentally it was the opposite.
‘Through battling the fires of adversity she got stronger and in my eyes, it made her more and more radiant with every passing day. I’ve never loved her more
‘She knew what was happening to her, yet she was able to still find those magical moments.’
He said he was in awe of what his wife had achieved while dealing with such emotional anguish.
In the months leading up to her death, Deborah had Prince William over for tea, who made her a Dame.
Living life on her own terms despite her illness, she designed Charity T-shirts a clothing line to raise millions more for her ‘Bowelbabe’ fund.
The Dame also wrote and published her second book How to Live When You Should Be Dead, while suffering from cancer, detailing how developing a positive mindset was key to enabling her to cope with her diagnosis.
Thinking of what he loved most about her, he said her way of finding joy in every moment, even in the darkest of times, was what he will miss the most.
Deborah’s candid posts about her progress and diagnosis, including videos of her dancing her way through treatment, won praise from the public and media alike.
Since her diagnosis in December 2016, Deborah poured all her efforts into riding the world of cancer one fight at a time, raising awareness and remaining open and honest about her own personal experiences.
Now, her husband says he feels a responsibility to carry on her positive spirit for their children, Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12.
The couple first met in 2005 at Cafe de Paris in London, marrying within three years in France.
The former deputy head teacher would often throw incredible parties for their friends, set up outdoor cinemas for their children or throw herself into all manner of projects.
Sebastian said lockdown, unlike in other circumstances, had been a blessing for their family – allowing them to spend more time together than they would have found otherwise.
Dame Deborah James has visited the stall selling the beautiful bloom, which is breaking sales records, on a special out-of-hours tour of the Chelsea Flower Show. The cancer campaigner, 40, and her husband Sebastien enjoyed a tour of the show gardens with TV presenter Sophie Raworth
Deborah’s sister and mother as well as her daughter Eloise and nieces surprised her with a sleepover on May 31
Dame Deborah James was awarded a damehood from the Queen, which she received at home from Prince William on May 13
Deborah and cancer activist Lauren Mahon co-presented You, Me and the Big C with breast cancer campaigner Rachael Bland from March 2018 until her death later that year.
Rachael used the podcast as a platform to announce she had just days to live, prompting a surge in interest in the programme.
Dame Deborah started campaigning for greater awareness of bowel cancer symptoms on Instagram before transitioning to TV appearances.
Her co-presenters and producers said she was a ‘chaotic deviant’ with ‘unwashed hair’ who had a penchant for being late, dreamed of working in fashion and used a ‘Radio 4 voice’ when speaking in public.
By the end of her life she was a regular face on ITV’s Lorraine and successfully campaigned to have bowel cancer symptoms added to toilet roll packaging.
The team added that while she had a ‘fizzing’ and ‘vibrant’ personality, she was also a sensitive woman driven by changing the world and helping others.
They reflected on the small silver linings of her cancer diagnosis, including having more time with her children because she was forced to give up work as a teacher.
Deborah said that her cancer diagnosis made her a better mum, taking away her fear of the world.
Family friends said her children will be looking after Sebastian as much as he is looking after them after Deborah’s passing.
James’s book overtook Richard Osman’s mystery novel on Amazon in pre-orders on May 19 after she announced Peguing had moved up their timeline so it could be published in August
Dame Deborah James, 40, dedicated the time she had after being moved to hospice care to raise funds for Cancer Research and raise awareness about bowel cancer. She also attended Royal Ascot, pictured, and the Chelsea Flower Show as well as saying goodbye to her family
‘A truly special person who saved lives and did so much to help others’: Friends and colleagues pay tribute to Dame Deborah James
Tributes have poured into Dame Deborah James after her family confirmed she has died aged 40 following a long battle with bowel cancer.
Messages commended the mother-of-two for her inspiring fundraising, her ‘tireless’ campaigning and her incredible legacy.
The podcaster and campaigner revealed in early May that she had stopped active treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ home in Woking, with her husband Sebastien and their two children on hand.
In her final weeks, the presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C raised millions of pounds for research and was made a dame for her ‘tireless’ work improving awareness of the disease.
Her mother Heather said her heart is ‘broken’ following the death of her daughter aged 40 from bowel cancer.
BBC podcast host Deborah James has passed away following her five-year battle with cancer
Heather James, whose handle on the social media site is Bowelgran, shared a series of photos of Dame Deborah and wrote: ‘My heart is broken. Love you forever.’
Fans, politicians and celebrities also rushed to pay their respects to the inspirational campaigner.
Minister of State Michelle Donelan tweeted: ‘RIP Deborah James – a selfless inspiration. Thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.’
First Dates personality Fred Sirieix tweeted: ‘Deborah James passed away. Poor thing. RIP’
Meanwhile, Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘RIP Dame Deborah James, aka Bowel Babe. A truly remarkable and inspiring woman. Such sad news.’
Good Morning Britain host Charlotte Hawkins described Dame Deborah James as an ‘inspiration.’
She tweeted: ‘Oh no…heartbreaking news that @bowelbabe has left us. What an inspiration, a truly special person who saved lives & did so much to help others.
‘Who showed that even a terminal diagnosis wasn’t going to stop her living life to the full. So much love to her family & friends.’
Carol Vorderman also paid tribute to Dame Deborah James, tweeting: ‘Rest in peace @Bowelbabe. Your incredible spirit will live on.’
BBC radio presenter Chris Stark tweeted that Dame Deborah had been an inspiration for many.
‘Dame Deborah James,’ he tweeted.
‘You inspired so many and did everything to the fullest. No one can do more than that. I hope we can have a gin wherever this all leads.
‘Thinking of your family and friends and everyone that is going through similar. Rest in Peace Debs x’
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner described Dame Deborah as an ‘extraordinary campaigner’.
She tweeted: ‘Rest in peace Deborah James. What an incredible, fierce, bright and brilliant woman.
‘An absolutely extraordinary campaigner. Thank you for your rebellious hope and the millions you have inspired @bowelbabe.
‘Thinking of your many loved ones’.
TV presenter Julia Bradbury said Dame Deborah was ‘the most incredible ambassador of life’.
She tweeted: ‘Heartbroken that Dame Deborah James has died.
‘She has been the most incredible ambassador of life & cancer campaigner.
‘My thoughts are with her family & children. Such a huge loss. Your bright light will shine on Deborah.’
TV presenter Gaby Roslin tweeted: ‘Bye bye my beautiful friend Deborah.
‘You will forever shine so brightly. Thank you for all you did. For the laughter, the dancing and most importantly for all you did in your short lifetime for others.
‘My love to all of the family. Just so heartbreaking’.
Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, where Dame Deborah James was a patron, said the podcaster had turned her diagnosis into ‘an incredible force for good’.
She said: ‘We’re deeply saddened that our patron Dame Deborah James has died, and our hearts go out to her family and everyone who knew and loved her. Deborah’s star shone bright; she was a true inspiration.
‘She turned her bowel cancer diagnosis into an incredible force for good and through her tireless campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer symptoms, will have saved countless lives.
‘Deborah brought warmth, energy, and honesty to everything she did. Even during her most difficult times living with bowel cancer, she never stopped helping others.
‘We are truly grateful to have known Deborah and to call her our friend. She was a powerful patron for Bowel Cancer UK, and leaves a stunning legacy through her BowelBabe Fund, a testament to the love and admiration so many had for her.’