Dame Deborah James joked about being taken by the Grim Reaper

Dame Deborah James joked about being taken by the Grim Reaper

Laughing in the face of death: Dame Deborah James joked about the Grim Reaper with Rachael Bland, assured her husband she ‘never kissed’ another man at a party and wanted to ‘make a deal with the devil’ to cheat her fate

  • Dame Deborah James wrote about finding the humour in your darkest moments
  • She wrote How to Live When You Could be Dead while she was dying
  • The mother joked with Rachael Bland about 2-4-1 flowers at their funerals 

Dame Deborah James joked about the Grim Reaper with her friend Rachael Bland just days before Rachael died, she has revealed.

The former headteacher and mother-of-two, who hosted the You, Me and The Big C podcast with Rachael, found comfort in humour as they both faced death and wanted to make a ‘deal with The Devil’ to carry on living.

Dame Deborah, who died at the age of 40 in June, also assured her husband Seb she had never kissed another man as she laid on her deathbed.

Dame Deborah James (pictured at Royal Ascot in June 2022) wrote How to Live When You Could be Dead while she was dying

Dame Deborah James (right) pictured with her You, Me and The Big C podcast co-hosts Lauren Mahon (centre) and Rachael Bland (left)

In the book Dame Deborah, who died at the age of 40 in June, recalled assuring her husband Seb she had never kissed a man at a party he had always been suspicious about

In a book written while she was dying and published posthumously, How to Live when You Could be Dead, Deborah told of how she and her co-host Rachael were diagnosed with incurable cancer at the same time.

While Deborah had stage 4 bowel cancer, Rachael, who died in 2018 at the age of 40, had breast cancer. The pair presented the podcast with Lauren Mahon, who also battled breast cancer.

Writing in the book, Deborah recalled a GIF Rachael Bland had sent her the day before she passed away. 

Deborah said: ‘It’s basically two Grim Reapers with the caption “see you on the other side”!’

She also recalled how Rachael joked the pair could ‘get two-for-one’ deals on flowers for their funerals if they died at the same time.

Deborah’s book, which she has dedicated to Seb and her children, Hugo, 14, and Eloise, 12, stressed the importance of finding humour even in our darkest days.

She claimed some of the funniest moments of her life had been in the most serious times – including turning up late to her grandmother’s funeral because she was hungover.

During her final weeks, Deborah James was awarded a damehood for her fundraising efforts, which was personally presented to her at her parents’ house in Woking by the Duke of Cambridge

Dame Deborah dedicated her book to her husband Seb and children Hugo, now 14, and Eloise, now 12

Deborah recalled joking with Rachael Bland, who was diagnosed with cancer at the same time as her, that they might be able to get a ‘two-for-one’ offer on flowers at their funeral

The former teacher wrote: ‘I’d gone out the night before and drunk too much, and I ended up following the casket down the aisle of the church because I was so late and really hungover.’

Recalling the amount of trouble she was in for being late, Dame Deborah wrote it was ‘totally disrespectful’.

However, she added it was ‘also very funny’ and that her grandmother ‘would have laughed her head off’.

Even when facing her own mortality, the campaigner said she managed to find something to joke about.

After suffering an oesophageal bleed earlier in 2022 and thinking she was on her deathbed, she tried to settle her husband Seb’s fears about a party she had been to years earlier.

Dame Deborah wrote: ‘I basically said to my husband, “Seb, I know you always think I kissed that guy. I never ever kissed him”.’

At the time she was also sending messages to her brother, Ben, pestering him to propose to girlfriend Ashley and reminding him that he was starting to look like Prince William.

In a twist she wasn’t expecting, Deborah met Prince William himself in her final weeks as he popped over to her parents’ house, where she was receiving hospice care, to present her with her damehood. 

Speaking about her sense of humour, Deborah said she rarely laughed at anything that was ‘too highbrow’, preferring to giggle at ‘fart jokes’ instead. 

But despite finding humour in death, she added she still hadn’t come to terms with dying and wanted to go on for much longer.

The mother wrote: ‘I always thought I could make a deal with the devil and things would turn out ok.’

She added she was ‘still in denial’ about the fact this wasn’t a possibility.

However, as the campaigner reflected on her legacy, raising £7million for Cancer Research UK and helping people understand the symptoms of bowel cancer, she said it was ‘far beyond’ her imagination.

She wrote: ‘All I’ve ever wanted is for my kids and husband and family to love me and be proud of me.’

How to Live When You Could be Dead, by Dame Deborah James, is out now 

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