Heartbreaking moment Deborah told me she loved me and had no regrets just before she died, says Dame's mum | The Sun

DAME Deborah James’ mum has spoken of the heartbreaking moment her daughter said she "didn't want to die" but had "no regrets".

Heather has revealed what she and her daughter talked about in her final days before she passed away of incurable bowel cancer on June 28, aged 40.

The doting mum-of-three said Debs told her she loved her and encouraged her to "continue and enjoy life" once she'd died.

Reflecting on her life, she said Debs had been a ball of energy since she was born and until her death, there were never enough hours in the day.

She“made the most of life” even when she was poorly with cancer. 

Debs was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer aged 35 and spent five years tirelessly raising awareness of her disease and its symptoms.

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The Sun writer revealed in May that she had stopped treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents' home in Woking, Surrey.

Heather was her main carer, and Debs’ husband Seb, their two children and many other relatives gathered at the home.

Heather told the BBC: "I think the hardest thing was knowing she was going to die… knowing that she was getting weaker and I couldn’t help her.

“My heartache was knowing as a mother I couldn't do anything about that and I think that was the hardest for me to cope with…

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"We had some good times. I can remember lying in bed, probably just about a week or so before she died and she was quite poorly that night and she went, 'I do love you' and I went, 'I love you'.

"She went 'I have no regrets' and I went 'That's brilliant', how many people could say that? 

“But she did say I don't want to die. And that's the hardest, saddest part.

“I said to her ‘I don’t know what I'm gonna do when you go’, and she said ‘You will continue, you will enjoy life’. And I went ‘I don’t know if I can’, and she said ‘Then you haven’t done me justice’.”

Heather said Hugo and Eloise, Debs’ children, missed their mum.

But she said: “They've been amazing actually.

"I think Deborah did instil in them to enjoy their life, and even though they miss her, and they do miss her, they are living it, because that's what mummy wanted. 

That eight weeks was probably in one way the best eight weeks we've had together as a family, even though she died at the end of it.

“The legacy that she left will also be amazing, and something that we are all so proud of as a family.”

Remembering Debs as a child, Heather said she was always “so full of energy”. 

She said: “[She] always needed to be doing something, never had enough hours in the day. 

“And even when she was so poorly with cancer, she made the most of it.”

‘The best eight weeks’

In her final months, Debs raised almost £7 million for cancer research through the Bowelbabe fund, with the amount climbing further following her death.

Heather said when the fundraiser hit one million “we were all totally, totally shocked”. 

She added: “I still find that amazing, that she had the love of the people out there and that meant a lot, it meant a lot to the family and it still does.”

Asked if it had been a help, she added: "Yes. I think I could not have coped… we were given three to five days, Deborah lived eight weeks.

"That eight weeks was probably in one way the best eight weeks we've had together as a family, even though she died at the end of it.

"How can you not love what she did in that eight weeks and it did help knowing other people loved her and wanted to help in any way they could."

Heather previously told The Sun in her first interview since Deb passed that she would "miss her forever".

She said: "I was given this child, and I believe all children are gifts.

“I’ve always known she was a bit different, and we are so proud of her and what she achieved in her short life.

“Part of me thinks she knew she would only be in this world for a limited time, and so made the most of every second.”

Debs’ husband Seb said in those final weeks, he "never loved her more".

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.

He also revealed how he told his wife how proud he was of her as she took her last breath.

Seb told The Sun: "I kissed her on the head. 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.

“She had an incredibly peaceful death, if there was a way to die well, then she managed it.

“At the very end, it was quite spiritual.”

In true Debs style, she kept her fighting spirit until her last day, launching T-shirts with her slogan “Rebellious Hope” with In The Style.

She even managed to complete her second book, How To Live When You Should Be Dead, which is being published this month.

She was honoured with a damehood for her "tireless campaigning" to raise awareness of bowel cancer, given personally by the Duke of Cambridge in Heather’s garden.

Heather said of William: "He put us so much at ease when he came in. 

“You know, it was amazing. And he was just like one of my son-in-laws, he just sat down with us. He was so lovely, I think he is a people's king."

Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, told BBC Breakfast: "From the moment Deborah was diagnosed and right until the end of her life, she campaigned tirelessly.

"She was a phenomenal campaigner, and you can just see the impact that she's had there with people coming forward.

"And if those thousands of people who've come forward, the majority of them probably won't have bowel cancer, but for those that do, that's lifesaving.

"I've spoken to so many people with bowel cancer who've felt that they've had the confidence to go and tell their own story now because Deborah did so.

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"You know, she communicated so well and connected and they felt that they've been able to go.

"So it's all of those little conversations, like ripples in a pond, that will keep going, and that's really important because bowel cancer is not an easy one to talk about."

What are the symptoms to look for? Remember “BOWEL”

  1. : B: Bleeding

There are several possible causes of bleeding from your bottom, of blood in your poo.

Bright red blood could come from swollen blood vessels, haemorrhoids or piles, in your back passage.

Dark red or black blood could come from your bowel or stomach.

Blood in your stools is one of the key signs of bowel cancer, so it's important to mention it to your doctor so they can investigate.

2. O: Obvious change in loo habits

It's important to tell your GP if you have noticed any changes in your bowel habits, that lasts three weeks or longer.

It's especially important if you have also noticed signs of blood in your poo.

You might notice you need to go to the loo more often, you might have looser stools or feel like you're not going enough or fully emptying your bowels.

Don't be embarrassed, your GP will have heard a lot worse! Speak up and get it checked.

3. W: Weight loss

This is less common than the other symptoms, but an important one to be aware of. If you've lost weight and don't really know why, it's worth mentioning to your GP.

You may not feel like eating, feel sick, bloated and not hungry.

4. E: Extreme tiredness

Bowel cancer that causes bleeding can cause a lack of iron in the body – anaemia. If you develop anaemia you're likely to feel tired and your skin might look pale.

5. L: Lump or pain

As with lots of other forms of cancer, a lump or pain can be a sign of bowel cancer.

It's most likely you'll notice a pain or lump in your stomach or back passage.

See your GP if it doesn't go away, or if it affects how you eat or sleep.

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