Dame Deborah James has revealed some happy news for her family amid her battle with terminal cancer – as she shared her brother has got engaged to his girlfriend of 11 years.
The former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner, 40, from London, has been living with stage four bowel cancer since she was diagnosed in December 2016, and was told early on that she might not live beyond five years – a milestone that passed in the autumn of 2021.
At the start of the year, the mother-of-two, who shares her children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, with her husband Sebastien, announced she had ‘nearly died’ in hospital, calling it the ‘hardest’ part of her 5-year cancer battle, and was admitted as an in-patient earlier this month.
She is now receiving end of life care bowel cancer at her parents’ home in Woking and has raised over £6 million in the weeks since she announced the news.
And earlier today, she revealed some joyful news on Instagram, writing: ‘Ashley Hall and Benjamin James have finally ‘put a ring on it’. I cried and cried…Even Prince William asked my brother why he hadn’t done it yet.’
Dame Deborah James has revealed some happy news for her family amid her battle with terminal cancer – as she shared her brother has got engaged to his girlfriend of 11 years
Meanwhile she revealed how a visit from Prince William, who met with the family at home in Woking last month, had prompted the proposal
Posting a gallery of snaps online, the mother-of-two wrote: ‘He finally put a ring on it! Congratulations to @benjaminrjames and @ashleyclairehall for finally getting engaged after 11 years!
‘If you ever followed my podcasts, brother banter features highly, and even Prince William joined in on the action recently!
‘The question to my brother has always been why haven’t you proposed! As a family everyone knew they both wanted to, it wasn’t like the it’s been off the cards it’s just always been apparently about “the right time”.’
She continued: ‘So they finally did it and then face timed me from Cornwall and then friends all afterwards – my mouth was still opened for the rest of the day!
The mother-of-two posted a number of pictures with her brother and her sister-in-law to be on her Instagram page
The family met the Duke of Cambridge last month in Woking, when Prince William apparently asked why Benjamin hadn’t proposed to his girlfreiend yet
HOW DEPUTY HEAD TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA STAR HAS TRANSFORMED BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS
In December 2016, the West London mother-of-two, a deputy head, was diagnosed ‘late’ with incurable bowel cancer
After sharing her experiences on living with the disease on social media, Deborah became known as the ‘Bowel Babe’
In 2018, she became one of three presenters on Radio 5 Live’s You, Me and the Big C, which was conceived by her late co-host Rachael Bland
On September 5th 2018, Welsh journalist and presenter Bland, diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, died at the age of 40
Deborah and her co-host Lauren Mahon continue to present the show, with Steve Bland, Rachael’s husband, joining the duo
On social media and in her column for the Sun newspaper, Deborah has documented the many chemo, radiotherapy sessions and surgery she’s had since
During her treatment, Deborah told followers on Instagram ‘By my general lack of being on here (dancing!), that Things have moved (in the wrong direction) very quickly cancer wise.’
In 2019, she had a procedure known as CyberKnife, a highly targeted form of radiotherapy to attack an inoperable lymph node close to her liver
The pandemic’s impact on cancer services saw her campaign for care to continue as normal and, earlier this year, she launched the ITV’s Lorraine’s ‘No Butts’ campaign, raising awareness on bowel cancer symptoms
Since last year, she has been taking new experimental drugs as part of a trial after her oncology team gave her the green light to do so
August, Deborah revealed that scans she’s had in recent days have revealed her cancer has gone in the ‘wrong direction very quickly’
She told followers she would be taking a break on social media over the weekend to ‘snuggle’ with her family ahead of more scans
The mother-of-two said a new ‘rapidly-growing’ tumour near her liver had wrapped itself around her bowel
On October 1, Deborah celebrates her 40th birthday
By October 18, the mother-of-two told her followers her chemotherapy is working
Days later, she was rushed to A&E with ‘spiking 40 degree temperatures’
In November, she reveals she is unable to walk for more than 20 minutes and remains ‘very weak’
By December, Deborah said she was ‘not sure what her options were’ after her liver stent ‘stopped working’
In January, she had five operations in 10 days after nearly dying in an acute medical emergency
January 25, Deborah returns home from hospital after three weeks
March 14, the mother-of-two is back in hospital as an in-patient after suffering from septic infection
In April, she concerned fans with snaps after suffering ‘a rough few days’
April 14, the mother-of-two tells fans she has been discharged from hospital but calls the situation ‘very tough’
April 27, she tells Lorraine that she has spent ’80 per cent’ of the year in hospital
May 9 – Deborah announces she has moved to hospice care
‘I couldn’t be prouder to be able to finally say that @ashleyclairehall will be my sister in law – I adore her. And she makes @benjaminrjames happy which is all that matters and vice versa.’
Deborah added: ‘Of course I’m sad I won’t see the weddding but it gave me an excuse to throw my last impromptu party (and I even sat at the table for a bit of it!!).’
The family went on to celebrate with a stunning meal outside to mark the occasion, with Deborah writing: ‘With the help of my sister and niece – it was days of @cricut , kids baked a cake and exploded a mess, and I tracked down all the last minute silver fairy lights, I could find!
‘I love curating table scapes and parties and whilst that was the last one in me, Eloise has truly now outdone me so I feel chuffed I can pass on the party train trait! A memory made without us even trying to make it a memory! Win!
‘Luckily the rain just held off and my body kept awake for a few hours! Ashley welcome officially to a slightly mad family, but we couldn’t be happier you are here.’
The post came hours after Deborah shared her anger amid her incurable bowel cancer battle and admitted that she finds the pressure of ‘making memories’ difficult to deal with.
She told The Sun: ‘Dying is really hard, I’ve been consumed by anger this week, in all honesty, I’ve been a real b***h.’
Deborah, who shares her children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, with her husband Sebastien, admitted she keeps shouting at her loved ones and pushing them away due to her anger at her disease.
The campaigner candidly spoke about the trials of her terminal illness, saying she struggles to deal with the pressure to make memories because she isn’t always able to when she is ‘exhausted, sick and in pain’.
‘Making memories is really, really hard when you don’t have the physical capacity,’ she explained.
Deborah and her family are instead focusing on the small moments, including hosting an impromptu sleepover party last week.
The mother-of-two, who recently made the difficult decision to only spend time with her family and not see her friends, admitted she spent a lot of the slumber party in tears but described it as ‘so special’.
The radio host said she doesn’t think she will ever come to terms with her incurable diagnosis, saying she finds it heartbreaking to see her body change as she battles the illness.
She said she also finds it difficult that people don’t speak openly about death, saying she hopes she can give others comfort by talking about her own experiences.
Deborah, who was awarded a damehood by Prince William last month, has been busy campaigning and has raised more than £6.6million for Cancer Research UK through her BowelBabe fund.
Addressing why she has decided to fundraise, including selling her Rebellious Hope T-shirts, Deborah candidly said it has given her purpose during her end of life care.
Former deputy head teacher Deborah also penned her second book How To Live When You Could Be Dead, which was released in April and details her life after getting an incurable bowel cancer diagnosis.
As she receives support at her parents’ home, Deborah said she finds it important to get dressed and put make-up on everyday so she can feel more like herself.
Detailing how she is spending her days, she said she sits in the conservatory in her wheelchair as she puts on her make-up, does crafts and cooks for her family, which she said she enjoys despite not having much of an appetite herself.
Speaking about how her loved ones have supported her, Deborah tearfully admitted that she has become much closer with her siblings over the past few weeks and described her parents as ‘amazing’.
Cancer: Speaking about her cancer battle, Deborah said she has been ‘consumed by anger’ over the last week as she is supported by her husband Sebastien and kids Hugo and Eloise
Quality time: She said she struggles to deal with the pressure to make memories, so instead focuses on the small moments, including having a sleepover party with her family (pictured)
Deborah said her husband Sebastien has also been a huge support for her, and said she has enjoyed spending time with her children, though she admitted she finds it difficult for them to see her unwell.
Her comments come after she took to Instagram to share sweet photos from a ‘girls night in’ sleepover with her mother, sister and daughter Eloise.
She said her family managed to ‘put a smile on her face’ after spending ‘most of yesterday in tears’ with the impromptu party.
Adorable photos showed Deborah with her family in matching pink satin pyjamas and face masks, on futons covered with pink sheets and dozens of teepees.
Writing on Instagram alongside a collage of sweet family photos she wrote: ‘Making memories can be hard why you are dying! Oh the pressure!!.
Struggles: She said she doesn’t think she will ever come to terms with her terminal diagnosis, saying she is finding it heartbreaking to see her body change as she battles the illness
‘I’m now only getting some very grabbed hours between the sleeping and side effects, but this girly sleepover managed to put such a smile to my face having spent most of yesterday in tears!
‘I’m getting less and less able to leave the house, or bed really now, so was feeling pretty down about it. Or do anything for that matter!
‘But my sister suggested a party sleepover! She managed to call a very local Woking company (Teepee Vibe Tribe), that morning, who said, yes we’ll come and help and make the whole thing so easy and enjoyable all within 3 hours notice.
‘I was feeling awful after a bad day, so didn’t watch the set up of anything.
‘Actually I just cried over my leaking drains next door! But with the help of my sister and bro, managed to calm down and then they wheeled me into the room last night and yes I cried over the fairy lights! Good tears! It was just perfect!
‘I went from staying in my wheelchair to ending up everyone helping to get me into an actually Tee pee to watch Cinderella with the gang and sit their like a 5 year old with a huge Cheshire Cat smile on my face next to my daughter and sister!
Fun times: Her comments come after she took to Instagram to share sweet photos from a ‘girls night in’ sleepover with her mother, sister and daughter Eloise
‘We booked the experience as regular customer but they refused payment so have donated it to Bowel Babe Fund instead.
‘But I wanted to give a big shout out to Teepee Vibe Tribe because they were local, just so good and made something that meant a a lot to me just so effortless. Today I sleep! But with another memory and a smile.’
Deborah was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2016, and was told early on that she might not live beyond five years – a milestone that passed in the autumn of 2021.
She shared an Instagram post earlier this month revealing that ‘nobody knows how long she has left’.
She wrote: ‘The message I never wanted to write. We have tried everything, but my body simply isn’t playing ball.
Illness: She is receiving hospice care at her parents’ home in Woking, to spare her children the difficult memories of her spending her final days at the family home in London
‘My active care has stopped and I am now moved to hospice at home care, with my incredible family all around me and the focus is on making sure I’m not in pain and spending time with them.’
She is receiving hospice care at her parents’ home in Woking, to spare her children the difficult memories of her spending her final days at the family home in London.
The news comes days after she told The Sun that she was ‘scared to fall asleep’ because she does not know how long she has got left.
She added she had felt a ‘deep love’ from her family, saying: ‘I think my family are knackered, they have all been incredible – going above and beyond to look after me and nurse me.’
And speaking of her end of life care recently, she added: ‘I feel very strongly that I don’t want my kids to see me agitated and distressed. I want to make sure they see me when I’m having a good days.’