I stayed with Debs every day until she died.
Five years ago on Mother’s Day, Mrs. Deborah James wrote a letter to her mother.
It was 2018, just over a year since the Sun writers wrote it. Diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
In her online Sun column, what cancer told me, Deborah She said to her mother: “I know you fear that if things take a turn for the worst and I die, the day will come too soon when you will have to hold my hand. But it’s okay because you’re here.”
it was like Deborah I knew then that my fears would come true.
Then age 36, she never thought she’d be alive to see it Mother’s Day.
when Lady Debs When diagnosed at age 35, she had less than an 8% chance of living longer than five years.
Little did she know, even driven by an infectious rebellious hope, she’d be sharing four more Mother’s Days with her mother, Heather, her husband. Sebastian and children, Hugo, 15, and Eloise, 13.
“Losing Deborah was my biggest fear, but when she took her last breath, I was there, holding her hand,” she said in June 2022, when her daughter turned 40. Nine months after he died, Heather said.
“I have read that column many times, especially in the last six months. I am eternally grateful for the four wonderful years we had together.”
in the meantime cancer The 65-year-old gymnastics teacher says it took Deborah away from her, but it gave her the chance to get even closer to her oldest daughter.
Last January when Lady Debs Her mother was by her side as she was recovering in the hospital from near-fatal internal bleeding caused by a tumor that had ruptured a blood vessel.
heather “The COVID-19 rules at the time allowed Deborah to have only one named visitor.
“I remember her turning to Seb and saying, ‘I love you, but I need you mama.’ From that moment until she died, I was by her side.
a few months ago Deborah returned to her parents’ house last May. in walking, SurreyIn her final days, the campaigner was only able to leave the hospital a few times.
One of those precious moments was Mother’s Day 2022.
Heather said, “Deborah was really poor, but I was so grateful to be here to have lunch with her. She was very weak, but Deborah’s rebellious hope lifted us up.” I don’t think anyone thought this would be her last Mother’s Day.”
Even when the family celebrated a few weeks later Easter and Lady Debs Once cleared to leave the hospital again, Heather had no idea what was going to happen next.
“Just before Easter, Deborah suffered another bout of sepsis and was put back into intensive care,” she said.
“But she bounced back from that and actually looked pretty good.
“She made the courageous decision to stay in the hospital for four weeks to beat the infection and we thought she beat it, but it was weakening her body.
“That was last April and after she came back in May I realized she was going to die. Until May 7th I believed she was fine.
when Deborah When she returned home, she was told that she only had a few days left to live.
But the inspiring campaigner survived for another seven weeks.
Her husband and children were by her side during that time, her parents Heather and Alistair, her brothers Sarah and Ben, and their families.
Watching her daughter leave home over the past few weeks has had a huge impact on Heather. It’s sad, but this time will always be a treasure for her.
She said, “As a mother, you shouldn’t look at your child that way. But it was a privilege to spend time with her. I was with her all day, every day, for months. , especially in the last few weeks, our bond grew stronger and stronger.
“When you bring a newborn home, it’s like they depend on you and you form a bond that cannot be put into words.
“During the seven weeks Deborah died, I got my baby back. We had a very special conversation in the middle of the night. She didn’t sleep, we watched movies together. I will always have those memories.
“I told her how well she was doing and how strong she was.
“We became very close, which is why her loss feels so unbearable and so difficult to understand.”
When asked how her mother would handle such situations, Heather said:
She added, “I never cried in front of Deborah. I had to be strong for her because she was so strong for me. Deborah didn’t talk much about dying.”
“She wanted to help me make sure I was okay.
“It broke my heart, but I never asked her not to die.
Nine months after saying their final goodbyes, Heather is overwhelmed by Deborah’s legacy.
“I’m so proud of everything she’s accomplished in such a short amount of time,” she says.
In her final weeks, Deborah launched her bowel baby foundationhas raised a staggering £7.5m to invest in cancer research.
so was she Honored by Prince Williamvisited her parents’ home to finish her second book, acquire a rose named after her, and launch retailer In the Style and a charity fashion collection.
“She was always the kid who wanted more time in the day,” adds Heather. “I am in awe of what she has done and she cannot believe she was my child.
“She was a determined child, adult, mother, wife, teacher, and cancer patient. was there.”
That determination led Dame Debs to raise awareness of the disease that ultimately claimed her life, resulting in a surge in testing. Colorectal cancerthe NHS has hailed as the ‘Dame Debs effect’.
It was that same determination that helped Deborah get on with her life after her diagnosis.
And what she has instilled in those she loves is a contagious love of life.
zest for life
“I could never have imagined how much Deborah would give me in my life,” says Heather.
“She taught me how to live even in death. She completely changed my outlook on life.
“I used to be hesitant to say no and do what I really wanted to do. She gave me the confidence to do things I never dreamed of. gave me
“She told me, ‘Don’t say no.’ She may be gone, but I still feel her around me. It reminds me to live my life, be kind, and make the most of each day.You never know what tomorrow will bring.
“Deborah’s life was cut short, so I owe her to go and make the most of mine.”
It’s the same zest for life that Heather sees in her grandchildren Hugo and Eloise.
“Deborah is a wonderful mother and I am very proud of how she raised her children,” says Heather.
“She told them to follow their dreams and instilled it in them.
“She left them with a strong conviction that they would be fine.
“They have their ups and downs, but I know that Eloise and Hugo will live full lives knowing they tapped into their mother’s spirit with no regrets.”
When Heather celebrated her first Mother’s Day today, Deborahshe says her family is “breaking the mold.”
every year thereafter Diagnosis of Deborah They all met for lunch at her parents’ house.
but Heather “When we all get together this year, the chairs will be empty. Deborah will be gone and I’m not ready to see it. Alistair and I will be away on vacation and we will each be doing our own thing. doing.
“Five years ago Deborah shared my greatest fear in her column, and now I have to face that fear.
“I am eternally grateful to have spent four more Mother’s Days with her, but this one will be very difficult.
“I will cherish all the memories we made together and keep her spirit alive. We were given the opportunity to be even closer, something most mothers and daughters couldn’t share. But baby. I lost her just like I got my girl back, and that’s the hardest part.”