“The relationship Deborah and I had was outstanding. It was unique and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my life with anyone else.” – Peter, Deborah’s husband.
Peter met Deborah in 1977 in a discotheque in Whitley Bay when he plucked up the courage to ask if she’d like a drink.
Four years later, Peter asked Deborah to become his wife.
“It was a beautiful evening,” Peter said. “We were sitting on the rocks at Whitley Bay beach. As was tradition then, I’d already asked Deborah’s dad for his daughter’s hand in marriage and I proposed under a beautiful full moon. “Deborah said yes and we were so happy.”
The pair were married in 1981 at St Edward’s Church in Whitley Bay and despite Peter revealing that money was tight at the time, the newlyweds scraped enough money together to spend their honeymoon in sunny Menorca.
Back home, they saved to buy their first home – a two-bedroom semi-detached house in North Shields, which Peter described as “our little castle and kingdom”.
Both Peter and Deborah worked hard, and they were able to move to a larger property in North Shields. Then, one day the couple were blindsided when Peter was diagnosed with lung cancer, aged just 28.
Peter underwent 8 months of chemotherapy and 3 months of radiotherapy, which thankfully proved successful.
But, as a result of the treatment, the pair found it difficult to start a family, as Peter revealed.
“It was recommended to us that we should freeze my sperm before treatment, which we did. But afterwards, we still couldn’t fall pregnant. We tried for years and it didn’t happen for us. It transpired Deborah had some fertility issues, too, so between us, we couldn’t conceive.”
The family moved to Longhorsley near Morpeth, Northumberland, to be closer to Peter’s work. He worked at BT while Deborah worked in admin roles at Smith Ship Repairers, the local job centre and, latterly, at the Danish pharmaceutical company, Pharma Nord.
In 2014, Peter retired from BT and set up a consultancy business. Two years later, Deborah retired from Pharma Nord. The pair prepared for the next chapter in their lives.
But in 2017, the family were devastated when Deborah was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The mum-of-one underwent extensive treatment and a mastectomy, with Peter by her side.
“It was obviously a horrible time but Deborah came through it. I remember her saying to me, ‘If it comes back within 2 years, it won’t be good’. I replied, ‘Let’s not worry about that. Let’s just concentrate on you, right now’.”
Sadly, 22 months later, the cancer did return and this time the doctors revealed it had spread.
Deborah underwent more brutal treatment but the cancer proved too aggressive.
Peter’s wife spent just one night at St Oswald’s Hospice after Deborah asked if she could go to give her beloved husband a break.
“Deborah was in good spirits when she went to the hospice, and I when I rang her later that day, she was great. I don’t think she thought for a second what was about to happen.”
The following morning, one of our Consultants in Palliative Medicine, Dr Jo Brown, called Peter to ask if he could come to the hospice.
Deborah’s health had unexpectedly declined overnight and Peter was told his wife was not expected to live for more than 24 hours.
Deborah died later that day.
“She had humility running through her veins, never believing she was better than other people. A family person who embraced togetherness, looking forward to birthdays, anniversaries or festive occasions where her extended family ‘The Boswells’ would be as one. Deborah referred to my sisters, Ilene and Anne, as ‘sisters’ not ‘sisters-in-law’. That’s how strong she felt the bond was between them.”
Peter also reflects on the affinity Deborah had with animals.
“Deborah had a natural way of engaging with animals and gaining their trust, she was born to have pets and had the pleasure of owning many different breeds of dogs, cats and a had a horse called Fluffy! Animals were part of Deborah’s life and when undergoing chemotherapy, she liked nothing better than a ‘puggle cuddle’ with Ernie and Betty, her beloved Pugs.”
Deborah also loved Christmas and would spoil everyone around her. But this passion means the festive period can now be a challenging time for Peter.
“I’ve always been a very positive, upbeat person and I try not to use grief as an excuse to sulk. But do struggle with this time of year because Deborah loved it so much,” he added.
“The first year without her, I couldn’t face putting up the decorations but my sisters – who Deborah was so close to – persuaded me to put just one of our trees up.
“This year will be the third Christmas without Deborah and I still manage to put up a tree. I like hanging the special ornaments that we collected over the years. I can’t decorate the tree as well as Deborah did, though.”
Christmas was also the perfect opportunity for Peter to treat his wife with gifts from her favourite beauty brand – Chanel. Her favourite scents still take pride of place in the couple’s bedroom.
“Fragrances can evoke such strong memories and there are certain Chanel perfumes that remind me of Deborah,” Peter explained. “I sprayed her favourite, Chanel Coromandel on the tissue paper of a present for my niece recently and as soon as she smelt it, she said – ‘that’s Auntie Deborah!’”
Peter also sprayed his wife’s favourite Chanel perfume more recently, as he explained:
“It’s actually Deborah’s birthday today. I’ll be going to the Garden of Remembrance later but, this morning, I sprayed some Coromandel, which reminds me so much of her, and I wished my wife a happy birthday.”
If you would like to dedicate a light in memory of someone you love and miss, please visit our Light up a Life page to find out more about making your dedication and how you can join our in-person remembrance event on Wednesday 6th December 2023 or how you can tune in from the comfort of your own home.