Sarah Willingham: Husband's cancer scare helped me decide to leave Dragons' Den

Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham felt the time was right to quit the business-based TV programme after her husband had a cancer scare.

The 43-year-old entrepreneur announced she would be standing down from her role as an investor in the BBC Two series in January after appearing on the panel since 2015.

Sarah told Hello! magazine that losing control of her husband Michael Toxvaerd’s health situation during a family holiday made her realise how “precious” time is, and that she loves her family more than the show.

Sarah Willingham with husband Michael Toxvaerd and their children (Hello! magazine)

The couple and their four children were a few weeks into a globe-trotting holiday when Michael fell ill and was told he had colon cancer.

It was later discovered he had a condition called diverticulitis, which causes pockets to develop in the lining of the intestine and become inflamed.

Sarah said: “Life is short. You’ve got to grab it and live it and create memories that matter to you.”

She said of learning that he did not have cancer: “I can’t even put into words how I felt.

“I’d had no control over the situation, none, and that was a completely new sensation for me. And I’ve never wanted anything as much as that outcome in my life, ever.

Dragons’ Den (BBC/PA)

“We completely dodged a bullet and it left me with a sense of calm inside, which I hope never goes. It also showed me how precious time is, how you’ve got to live for the moment and really enjoy it.”

Sarah, who made her fortune with restaurant chain The Bombay Bicycle Club, also said that having to return to film a third series of Dragons’ Den would have forced her to take a break from her family holiday.

She said being part of the show was “brilliant” but that she and Michael had made a promise to their children to “take a year off to go and see the world together and make the most amazing memories”.

Hello! (Hello!/PA)

She added: “As much as I love Dragons’ Den, I love my family more.”

Sarah is departing the show along with co-star Nick Jenkins, who joined in the same year with remaining business investor Touker Suleyman.

Read the full article in Hello! out now.


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