Book Review: How To Live When You Could Be Dead by Deborah James

I pre ordered this book when Deborah James was talking about it in the Spring. Like many people, I had been so impressed with how she had dealt with her bowel cancer diagnosis and used it to raise awareness of the disease initially on social media as Bowelbabe – but then on mainstream media too. I wanted to show Deborah, in some small way, my support – so pre ordered the book, wore the Rebellious Hope T-shirt – and ‘bought her a drink’ on her JustGiving fundraising site.

This is what Deborah (or Dame Deborah James as she became) wrote for the blurb of her book:

I was alive when I should have been dead. In another movie, I missed the sliding door and departed this wondrous life long ago. Like so many others, I had to learn to live not knowing if I have a tomorrow, because, statistically, I didn’t. At the age of 35, I was blindsided by incurable bowel cancer – I was given less than an 8 per cent chance of surviving five years. Five years later, my only option was to live in the now and to value one day at a time.
How do you turn your mind from a negative spiral into realistic and rebellious hope? How do you stop focusing on the why and realise that ‘why not me’ is just as valid a question?
When Deborah James was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer at just 35, she learned a powerful lesson: the way we respond to any given situation empowers or destroys us. And with the right skills and approach, we can all face huge challenges and find strength and hope in the darkest of places.
How to Live When You Could Be Dead will show you how. It will awaken you to question your life as if you didn’t have a tomorrow and live it in the way you want to today. By harnessing the power of positivity and valuing each day as though it could be your last, you’ll find out, as Deborah did, that it is possible to live with joy and purpose, no matter what.”

The book starts with a Foreword written by Gaby Roslin, who had become a friend of Deborah’s in recent years – and this was really moving. As was the subsequent author’s note where Deborah admits she probably won’t be around to see the book being published, which she sadly wasn’t. So I’d cried before the book had started properly – and continued to during the book at times. However it most definitely is not a doom and gloom book – it’s about grabbing life and enjoying the time you have.

I think like most ‘self help’ books, it’s not rocket science and doesn’t contain any advice that would come as a huge shock – but it’s good to take time out of hectic lives to actually think about that – and think about small steps you can take to make your life happier and more fulfilled every day.

Chapters include topics such as hope (rebellious of course!), living for today, having something to aim for, the healing power of laughter – and lots more. All are covered in Deborah’s matter of fact but also fun way – with personal stories interwoven with professional research and advice and relevant quotes.

There’s a great resources list at the end of the book too (Deborah was an educator by trade – and that is evident).

I really enjoyed the book from start to finish – and I defy ANYONE not to cry when reading the final chapter entitled ‘final word’. I am sure the book will be cherished by Deborah’s family – especially her children Hugo and Eloise – as they grow up. And I really hope Eloise will have the Dame Deborah James roses in her wedding bouquet some day.