The final letter that the late Dame Deborah James wrote to her family has been revealed in her posthumous new book, which is available to buy this week.
She sadly lost her battle with the disease in June 2022 at the age of 40.
So, what does the letter say, what advice did Deborah leave for her children and where and when can you buy the book
Here’s everything you need to know.
What does Deborah James’ final letter say?
Dame Deborah, who had battled with cancer for four years before she lost her battle with the disease in June, decided she wanted to leave behind a letter that her family could read after her death.
She also wanted to share the life lessons she had learned during her cancer journey, and the book she wrote focuses on staying positive in the face of adversity.
The Sun shared an exclusive extract from Deborah’s poignant final letter to husband Sebastien, son Hugo, age 14, and daughter Eloise, 12.
It reads: “I am currently sitting here next to the love of my life, Sebastien.
“I never quite knew if you could really have a love of your life, but I now know what the very core of unquestioned love is between two people.
“I have always loved my husband. I fancied him from when I first met him, and I knew I would marry him after our third date.
“It was clear to me that, while he wasn’t perfect, there was something about him that was right for me.
“He respected me, and he never let me walk all over him or wrap him around my little finger.
He has always been, and always will be, the one person who can come and make everything better at 3am. He makes me feel safe.”
She added: “I wish I had learned at a young age that making time for your marriage to work should be as much a part of your timetable as going to the gym or cleaning your teeth.
“It’s important that you don’t allow the big arguments to build up, when all you really want is to forget about everything and cuddle the one person who you love.
“As cancer brings my life to an end, I feel this cruel realisation that I’m not fully able to be myself with the one person I have adored and needed in my life more than anyone else.
“I feel robbed of the freedom of a body without pain to kiss with, the freedom for us to make whimsical plans for our future and retirement together.
“Our goals and dreams have had to be adjusted week by week and day by day, depending on my cancer.
“My husband has always been my rock. He holds me up when I can’t hold myself and wipes away my tears.”
What advice did Deborah James give her children?
Deborah James continued in her emotional and beautiful letter by writing directly to her two children, Hugo and Eloise.
She wrote: “To Hugo and Eloise, I can’t even speak about you without crying. You are my world.
“I’ve learned that there are many ways to parent — nothing is right or wrong as long as there is love.
“I’ve also learned that children are more resilient than we think. There are mental snapshots of being a parent that will never leave you.”
She added: “I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies, I believe in rebellious hope and I believe my children will be OK when I die. Because if I tell them they won’t be, then they might not be.
“I want them to realise that life does not always go according to plan.
“You can make plans, and you can have goals, but you have to be prepared for the fact that sometimes life is more interesting when you go off-piste — so be brave.
“Take a chance and back yourself. Remember to be your number one cheerleader.
“Don’t leave the world and all it has to offer until retirement — experience it now.
“Learn to balance living in the now and being present in the moment with your plans for the future (although this may be the hardest lesson of all).
“Marry only for love.”
She went on to urge them to do something that makes them happy every single day.
“Take time out. Relaxing isn’t an indulgence — it’s a form of refilling ourselves. None of us can drink from empty cups.
“Each day, do things that make you happy — build them into your life and never criticise others for the things that make them happy.
“Every day we wake not knowing if we will see the full 24 hours of the day, so as the sun comes up on a new day, we should feel blessed.
“We are given 86,400 seconds every day, and we each choose how to use them.
It is only as they begin to slip away from us that we understand the value of each and every one of those seconds.
“So, my greatest advice to you is that you can do whatever you want with those seconds. You can use them however you want.”
What is Deborah James’ book about?
In the book, yhe journalist and podcast host tells her inspirational and courageous story of living with incurable bowel cancer and how developing a positive mindset was key to enabling her to cope with her diagnosis.
Before her death, James said she was writing the book to show people how they can be the master of their own lives.
She said the book will make people question their life as if you didn’t have a tomorrow and live it in the way they want to today.
It is intended to show people how to build a positive mindset and invite them to think about what they could do if they believed they could do anything they want.
The book has several lessons that James wanted people to learn. They are:
- ‘Why not me?’ is more powerful than ‘why me?’
- Hope can help you sleep at night
- If your first goal becomes unattainable, find a new one
- Failure adds fuel to the fire
- Nobody has it all figured out
- There’s always something to be grateful for.
Where and when can you buy Deborah James’ book?
You can pre-order Deborah James’ book, How to Live When You Could Be Dead, now on Amazon.
You can choose either a Kindle or a hardback version, with prices starting at £9.99.
The book will be released on Thursday 18 August.
What reivews has Deborah James’ book received?
The book has not been released yet, but it is already a bestseller on Amazon from the pre-orders alone.
It also has a five star rating on Goodreads.
Further reviews are expected when the book is available to buy.
Who was Deborah James?
Deborah James was a former deputy head teacher turned cancer campaigner from London.
She was honoured with a damehood in May 2022 after raising more than £6 million for charity after setting up a Just Giving page to raise funds for clinical trials, research, and increase awareness of the disease.
She had written for, and was featured in, a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Sun, Daily Mail, The Times, Grazia, Women’s Health and Marie Claire, and the Independent.
Deborah also penned a bestselling book titled “F*** You Cancer”, which is a self-help guide to living your best life with cancer, and was presenter of the BBC podcast You, Me And The Big C.
Deborah was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her one million Instagram followers up to date with her treatments ever since, sharing candid posts about her progress and diagnosis.
Deborah James died on 28 June 2022. Her family confirmed the news on her Instagram page and said she “passed away peacefully surrounded by her family.”