Dame Deborah James said she was left with smiles and memories after surprise family sleepover

Dame Deborah James, with her husband Sebastien Bowen, during a private tour at the Chelsea Flower Show. Credit: PA

Dame Deborah James says she is going to sleep with “another memory and a smile” after hosting a “girly sleepover” for her family and friends.

The 40-year-old podcaster and campaigner said there was “pressure” to make memories while dying but that the impromptu event had put “such a smile on my face”.

Sharing pictures on social media, she wrote: “Making memories can be hard when you are dying. Oh the pressure. 

“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 on my face having spent most of yesterday in tears.”

Dame Deborah said it was becoming harder for her to leave the house or her bed. 

She said she had been feeling “pretty down” before her sister had suggested the sleepover, which had been organised in three hours.

“I was feeling awful after a bad day, so didn’t watch the set up of anything.

“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 there like a 5-year-old with a huge Cheshire Cat smile on my face next to my daughter and sister.”

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She added that the organising company had refused payment for the experience, so the money had been donated to her own Bowel Babe charity fund.

“Today I sleep! But with another memory and a smile,” she said.

Dame Deborah is a former headteacher who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her more than 800,000 Instagram followers up to date with her treatments.

She has raised more than £6.5 million for Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity through her Bowelbabe fund on Just Giving.

She set herself an initial target of £250,000 and has received donations from a huge number of supporters, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.