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Deborah James shares plan for her final moments of life and 'strict instructions' left for husband

By Cathy Owen

Cancer-stricken podcaster Deborah James says she is scared of dying alone and wants to go "listening" to her family's banter and normal buzz. She is determined not to spend her finals days crying because it would be "such a waste", and has given her husband strict instructions and been writing letters to her children that they can open in the future.

And the 40-year-old is watching in amazement as the new cancer research fund she launched on Monday passes the £3m mark, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge among those who have donated.

Since being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, the former deputy head teacher has spoken candidly about treatment on the BBC's You, Me and the Big C podcast, written a book and raised lots of money for cancer charities.

Read more : Praise for Joe Wicks as he talks about his 'chaotic' upbringing

Now, she has been speaking with that same candour about her plans for her death, funeral and how difficult it has been telling her children Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, and how she wants "one last cuddle" from them.

In an interview with The Times, that was published on Thursday (May 12), she said: "It’s been hideous telling my children. We have had a string of emotional conversations that have escalated very quickly from supportive care to end-of-life care. My husband Sebastien has been incredible, he has dropped everything and is with me 24/7. My first thought was that] I don’t want my children to see me like this. I didn’t think I would be able to speak to them without crying, but I’d love one last cuddle with them.”

Deborah has said that she feels "very calm" that her children will be looked after and says that with hindsight the coronavirus pandemic was a "massive blessing" because it gave them two years of being together with very little distractions.

"I watched every moment of them growing up in our little bubble and that makes up for some of the years I will lose," she says. "I feel confident they are doing really well."

She has also written her children letters that they can open when they reach milestone events in their lives: “It’s hard to work out what to do: you don’t want to rip off the Band-Aid every birthday and ruin it for them. But at the same time I want them to have letters at milestones, and funny messages. Here’s my advice on your wedding day, what to do on a first date. I used to hate the idea of a memory box, but I’ve just ordered a blue and a pink one.

"I know materialistic things don’t matter, but I want to buy Hugo a nice pen or wallet or cufflinks. I’m going to buy my daughter some Tiffany bracelets and earrings. They will have all the memories, but I want them to have a few presents in the future. I also want to write them postcards, but I have to be honest, I get really tired.”

She has also given her husband Sebastien a "strict" set of instructions to move on and get married again, but has warned him "Don’t be taken for a ride, don’t marry a bimbo, find someone else who can make you laugh like we did."

And has made plans for her funeral, asking that people wear black and white, and that her family place a small bench on the common opposite the family home in London.

"Some people want their ashes scattered in different place," she says> "I don’t because I think I would be lonely. I’m the kind of person that wouldn’t mind staying in the top drawer in the kitchen for a while. The one thing my family know is I am petrified of being alone. I don’t want to die alone.”

In an earlier interview, the mum-of-two said she was overwhelmed by the amount of money that had been raised since Monday and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have described her "tireless efforts" to raise awareness of cancer and "end the stigma of treatment" as inspiring.

They said they were sad to hear her news, but they were "pleased to support" the new fund, and added: "Deborah, our thoughts are with you, your family and your friends. Thank you for giving hope to so many who are living with cancer."

And Deborah is remaining brave, always thinking of others towards the end and raising as much awareness as she can from her hospice bed, saying: “As emotional as I am, I don’t want to be a sad story. I could have died when my kids were seven and nine, but science and brilliant doctors and my rebellious hope has given me life which has enabled me to have holidays; and experience things that I never thought possible; and raise awareness of bowel cancer; and do a tiny bit of good.

"What else could I wish for? I just feel gutted, absolutely gutted, that the things I love — I love life — I won’t get to see, hear, taste or smell [any more]. I have so outlived my prognosis, it’s ridiculous. I want to thank everyone: the NHS, my doctors and nurses. I am now sounding like an Oscar winner except there are no medals for dying.”

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