Simon Thomas has opened up about the traumatic experience of losing his first wife to cancer in 2017 and revealed how God brought love back into his life with Derrina Jebb.
The former Sky Sports presenter described the pain of his grief in an emotionally charged interview after his wife Gemma passed away within four days of receiving an acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis.
Gemma’s death in 2017 at the age of 40 resulted in what Thomas describes as an “earthquake of life” and as a result of her death he took time off to look after his eight-year-old son and essentially ripped up his contract at Sky.
The 50-year-old opened up about the rapid progression of his wife’s illness and the profound impact it had on his life – including his struggle with his own faith.
“We went from Monday night when she was diagnosed with some type of blood cancer. It looked good for a few days, the treatment was going well, but then things just got out of control.
Simon Thomas has spoken openly about the immense pain he felt after the death of his first wife in 2017
Gemma died in November 2017 aged 40 and is survived by Thomas and their son Ethan
Thomas remarried to Derrina (right) and the couple welcomed their first child together
“On Friday she falls unconscious and at 8.30am Friday morning a counselor tells me: ‘She will not see the end of the day’.
“The foundations on which your life was built are shaking, a massive life earthquake is taking place. And at 5:45 p.m. on this Friday in November 2017, she left at the age of 40 with an 8-year-old son and a husband.
“The first thing I did when I got out of the hospital was I just got on my knees and yelled at God, ‘Why? Why why why? Why did you leave my boy without a mother, I don’t understand, I don’t understand you God!”’.
Thomas then recounts the anger he felt in the weeks that followed after Gemma’s death and the struggle with his own faith after praying to God for his wife’s recovery.
And during his wife’s memorial service, Thomas describes how he fell to his knees again as he confronted the reality of Gemma’s death, before a prayer from a friend, Carl, helped him find peace.
The former Sky Sports presenter shared how a deep peace fell over the rest of the service and he was able to recall all the happy memories of his time with Gemma.
But this brief rest did not make the days and weeks that followed any easier for him, and Thomas tells of a certain morning when the burden of his grief was overwhelming, before a religious experience gave him strength.
Gemma died within four days of being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia
The 50-year-old retired from his broadcasting career following the death of his wife, having previously been Sky Sports’ lead football presenter since the 2010/11 season
“I remember waking up on Saturday morning after the funeral feeling more dejected than ever, walking out of the house in my dressing gown and sitting in this tree just by the Thames at the end of the garden in Reading, where we lived at the time.
“I felt like I was just in this fog of sadness and pain and I leaned against this tree and it was just a brief moment but that moment came when I felt this darkness so inescapable and so oppressive that I thought : ‘I can’ Don’t do it! I can’t, I wasn’t cut out for this grief.”
“I wasn’t made to be strong enough to navigate my boy through the next few years and I just wanted to roll into the Thames. I just wanted to let go of life for a minute.
“Luckily, two things happened: I got a picture of Ethan and I was like, ‘I can’t, he just lost his mother.’ But the strongest thing that happened was that I looked to the left and this really strong feeling had someone sitting there and I could see the image of this man just looking at me and not saying anything.
“I could just see him crying. And then he was gone! To this day I believe, and it felt so strong at the time, that Jesus was sitting next to me. I felt like Jesus was saying right at that moment, “I see, I was there. I know how that feels, I’ll walk you through it.”
“I remember having that surge of power coursing through me and thinking, ‘I have to get up, I’m going back to the house and I’m not giving up.’
The couple were married for 12 years and lived in Reading before her death in November 2017
Though he admits that life hasn’t gotten any easier despite the boost this experience has given him, Thomas has come to terms with the fact that his life would never be the same again and has made it his mission to be the best father he can be to his son.
The 50-year-old describes how he came to realize that the God he believes in is a God of second chances and brought love back into his life in the form of his second wife, Jebb.
Thomas and Jebb were married in 2021 and have one daughter, Talitha.
“Seeing God bring love back into my life with Derrina was the biggest surprise but also an incredible blessing. I never thought anyone would love me, way too much baggage. And yet he brought the restoration in relation to love.
“And now to have a daughter who got through a really difficult premature period and to see God at work in that situation, carding for her, caring for Derrina, caring for us as a family, and pulling us through.
“God is the God of second chances, God is the God who rebuilds life, who brings restoration from the rubble, and that has been the story of my life for the last five years.”
Thomas resigned from presenting almost immediately after his wife’s death and was absent from screens for three years.
Thomas left Sky Sports to take some time off after losing his wife Gemma to cancer in November 2017
Since then he has rebuilt his career and today he frequently presents himself on channels such as Amazon Prime Video.
Simon has also explained that people are not aware of the symptoms of blood cancer as if it were breast cancer despite it being the fifth most common cancer in the UK with more than 40,000 people diagnosed with it each year.
Speaking about how he had dealt with his wife’s death, Simon said he and his son Ethan had both been in counseling sessions for about two years.
He told The Sun: “We both benefited from having people to talk to and we both worked with our individual advisers for two years.”
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