My wife Deborah James was paralysed in her final days – I slept alongside her holding her hand before she slipped away | The Sun

My wife Deborah James was paralysed in her final days – I slept alongside her holding her hand before she slipped away | The Sun

August 13, 2022

DAME Deborah James' husband has revealed his wife was "paralysed from the waist down" in her final days – and slipped away holding his hand.

The Sun Columnist died at the age of 40 in June after a five-year battle with stage-four bowel cancer.

In the last seven weeks of her life alone she achieved more than most of us will in a lifetime, raising a staggering £7.4million for charity and capturing the hearts of the nation.

But her husband Sebastien Bowen has said those final days, spent at Deborah's parents' house in Woking, were far from easy – and saw the whole family rally around to help.

In a touching interview with The Times, Sebastien told how his son Hugo, 14, would brush his mum's hair, while Eloise, 12, would fetch her drinks.

He said Deborah was no longer able to do simple tasks like getting food from the kitchen or "clean or dress herself".

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And the dad-of-two said his wife became "so weak" and "frustrated" because she had been "fiercely independent".

He told The Times: "She was paralysed at the end from the waist down and had to deal with psychological battle of the reality of her new handicap."

Sebastien said it was his late wife's "inner strength" during those final weeks that resulted in the couple being able to still experience "some of the most mind-blowing, magical days of both our lives".

The banker stopped working to spend as much time with Deborah as possible after she stopped active treatment and started to receive end-of-life care.

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He told how he slept by her side and held her hand for two days before she died, adding she "wasn't really there".

"On [the] Tuesday her eyes opened and she came back into the room for a moment," he explained.

"And then she was gone within 15 minutes, with her sister, mother and father also surrounding her."

Dame Debs shared her journey with the world, in her Sun column Things Cancer Made Me Say, on social media and on her BBC podcast.

Deborah, a former deputy headteacher, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, before launching a podcast You, Me and the Big C, to raise awareness about the illness.

Sebastien and his children were supported by Deborah's parents, brother and sister as they cared for her in those final days – which were some of their most "magical" together, Sebastien said.

Through battling the fires of adversity she got stronger and in my eyes, it made her more and more radiant with every passing day.

He added: "People who didn’t know Debs saw her getting weaker and weaker in those final weeks. 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."

The fierce campaigner raised a staggering £7.4million to fund cancer research before she died and was made a Dame and had Prince William over for tea.

She and her husband spent their final weeks together reading poetry, watching their favourite films and enjoying days out, including to the Chelsea Flower Show.

The family even had to "manically" tidy after being warned the Duke of Cambridge was due to pay them a visit.

The Duke, who lost his own mother, Princess Diana, when he was aged just 15, gave Deborah's two children "powerful advice" about dealing with grief, according to Sebastien.

He also joked that Deborah was "triple parked" when he came to visit – as Debs had a glass of wine, a glass of Champagne and a glass of sherry in front of her.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun last week, Sebastien told how "proud" he was of his wife before she "slipped away".

He said: “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.

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

Despite being unable to walk without help, Deborah found the strength to launch a clothing line, she designed charity T-shirts to raise another £1million for her BowelBabe Fund and managed to complete her second book, How To Live When You Should Be Dead – all in her final weeks.

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