The mother of cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James has spoken for the first time about her final days, revealing she said she “didn’t want to die”.
Heather James was her daughter’s main carer from early May when she moved to her house in Woking, Surrey for hospice home care until her death on June 28.
In the past eight weeks, Ms James was personally awarded a dame status by Prince William and saw her Bowel Babe fund raise more than £7m for cancer research.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the mother said that when she first moved, they were only given “three to five days” by doctors.
“Those eight weeks were probably in a way the best eight weeks we’ve had together as a family, even though she died at the end of it,” she said.
But she added: “I think the hardest thing was knowing she was going to die. My heartbreak as a mother that I couldn’t do anything about was the hardest thing for me to deal with.
“She said, ‘I have no regrets,’ and I said, ‘That’s brilliant, how many people can say that?’
“But she said ‘I don’t want to die’. And that’s the hardest, sad part.”
Heather James said the overwhelming public support in her daughter’s final weeks eased some of the family’s pain.
Prince William felt like ‘one of my sons-in-law’
Asked about the Duke of Cambridge’s visit, she said he “put them at ease” and it was like he was “just like one of my sons-in-law”.
Earlier this month Dame Deborah’s husband Sebastian Bowen told The Sun that he told her how proud he was of her and that he would look after their children in her final moments.
Dame Deborah died aged 40 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer five years earlier.
She hosted the podcast You Me and the Big C with fellow patients and campaigners Rachael Bland, who died of breast cancer aged 40 in 2018, and Lauren Mahon.
Charities Bowel Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK have described her as a “tireless” campaigner.
Following her death, the NHS has revealed bowel cancer checks are now at an all-time high.
According to the data, 170,500 people were referred for check-ups for suspected lower gastrointestinal cancer between the months of May and July.
That number is an increase of more than 30,000 compared to the same period in 2021, and almost 80,000 higher than for the same period two years ago.