TINA Humphrey swallowed a lethal cocktail of drugs before turning to husband Steve and saying how much she loved him.
As they held hands, she looked into his eyes and told him not to cry, promising they would be together again.
Tina Humphrey had taken the decision to end her own life aged 45 after being diagnosed with melanoma
A few years earlier, Tina was the picture of health as she and her dancing dog Chandi captured the hearts of the nation on Britain’s Got Talent
More than four million viewers will this week watch Dingle family matriarch Faith put an end to her cancer suffering
Stricken by advanced cancer, she had taken the decision to end her own life aged 45, a year after the couple married in 2016 following a whirlwind romance.
A few years earlier she was a picture of health as she and her dancing dog Chandi captured the hearts of the nation on Britain’s Got Talent.
Now Steve, a photographer, is honouring his wife’s memory by helping ITV’s Emmerdale tell a story similar to Tina’s with sensitivity and compassion.
More than four million viewers will this week watch Dingle family matriarch Faith put an end to her cancer suffering — and actress Sally Dexter took advice from Steve on how to play the role.
He left Sally and the show’s producers close to tears after sharing the details of Tina’s death with them.
The actress said: “We were all extremely moved by Steve’s story. I only hope we have done as much justice to the story as we could.
“At the outset of telling this story we agreed all sides of this debate needed to be heard and respected.”
Steve, 66, met Tina in November 2015, five years after she and border collie Chandi came fourth in BGT, paving the way for similar acts.
The couple fell in love “instantaneously”, were engaged within two weeks and married five months later.
By then Chandi had died, but Tina — who enjoyed entering dog shows — was teaching her new dog Grace how to dance.
But their happiness was shattered when Tina, then 44, was diagnosed with melanoma a week before they married after finding a mole on her back had changed shape.
Steve, of Middletown, Shrops, said: “We were so in love when the cancer diagnosis came. I just knew she was the one as soon as I met her and she said it was the same for her. We were soul mates.”
Tina remained well for seven months. But by early 2017 the disease began to take its toll.
Having seen her parents die of cancer, she told Steve she was determined to spend her last moments fully conscious, without the use of drugs.
Steve said: “Tina had seen the deterioration in her parents and knew what the end could bring.
“Her mum had taken a holistic approach to her breast cancer and lived for 12 years, so Tina decided that was the way forward for her too. she said she didn’t want her last moments to be clouded by drugs or unconsciousness. She wanted her wits about her.
“She wanted to be able to hold my hand and tell me she loved me, and for me to tell her the same and to just hold each other. Tina was a very clever, determined woman who knew her own mind and I wanted her to have what she wanted.”
The couple were aware that assisted dying is legal in Switzerland and that Tina could have ended her life at the controversial Dignitas clinic.
But Steve said: “Tina didn’t want to die. She wanted to live and was doing everything she could to live. We thought she could beat this right up to the end.
“We didn’t have the money for Dignitas and by the time Tina had decided it was time to die she would have been too ill to walk down the street, let alone get on a plane.”
Tina knew what she wanted to do and had prepared the drugs beforehand and kept them with her in her bag.
In May 2017 she made a cocktail of the drugs she thought would bring about a quick death, before the couple shared an emotional goodbye.
Steve explains: “She’d been in hospice care and I picked her up. We were sitting in our garden when she said it was time to go.
“She loved her garden and had worked so hard on it. We were sitting together when she took the drugs. But as she started gasping for breath I carried her into the house.”
It took Tina an agonising 15 hours for her to slip away
Steve is honouring his wife’s memory by helping ITV’s Emmerdale tell a story similar to Tina’s with sensitivity and compassion
It took an agonising 15 hours for her to slip away. Steve could only watch in horror and he is still emotionally scarred.
Fighting back tears, he said: “I don’t know if Tina suffered or not but it was not the death she wanted. She was unconscious and I could only listen for 15 hours as her breathing grew ragged, then she was gasping. It was terrible. I will never forget those long hours.”
Steve says Tina suffered because she was unable to ask any doctor for help to die.
He is now working with campaigning organisation Dignity in Dying to change the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.
It is illegal to help someone take their own life and doing so carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
But Steve said: “A year after Tina died, my dog Gromit got a brain tumour. He was obviously in pain so a vet came and put him down and he was able to peacefully pass away in my arms.
“Yet my wife wasn’t afforded the same dignity. This isn’t about people who think they are a burden killing themselves or being somehow killed off by relatives..
“Tina wanted to live but she also wanted to shorten a life that was already dying. It’s about compassion.
“I believe medics should be allowed to give terminally ill people a prescription they can take when they need it, if they choose to. I don’t want others to die the way Tina did.”
‘Licks away my tears’
Research from Dignity in Dying estimates that 650 terminally ill people attempt suicide every year — some trying up to ten times.
Pre-pandemic, around 50 people a year travelled from Britain to Switzerland for an assisted death at a cost of around £10,000.
Studies show 84 per cent in the UK support the idea of a law change.
The Emmerdale storyline has seen Faith Dingle’s health deteriorate with incurable breast cancer.
Viewers have watched her experience breathlessness lose her appetite and have headaches and blackouts.
Her kids, Cain and Chas, want her to go to a hospice for care, but she confided in daughter-in-law Moira that she had made the decision to end her own life with tablets.
Moira was horrified before relenting and agreeing to help. But Faith later decided to go it alone so none of her loved ones got into trouble.
Actress Sally said: “Faith decides to relieve her family and herself of any further distress, pain or worry by taking matters into her own hands. Faith always was and is a lover of life. But to exist in mental torment and physical pain, with no choice or control over that existence, is unacceptable to her. She decides she would rather die.
“We all thought it a vitally important point of view for Emmerdale to air, seeing as many people would agree with Moira’s initial reaction.”
The Emmerdale storyline has seen Faith Dingle’s health deteriorate with incurable breast cancer
For Steve, reliving Tina’s death with Emmerdale bosses was a tear-filled experience
For Steve, reliving Tina’s death with Emmerdale bosses was a tear-filled experience. He has felt a lingering pain since losing her though is trying to move on in a fresh relationship.
Tina taught her dog Grace how to dance and Steve has paid tribute to Tina with a YouTube video showing how Grace is teaching him how to dance.
He said: “Grace knows when I’m sad and comes up to me and licks away my tears. I think she still misses Tina too.”
Ellie Ball, deputy director of communications at Dignity in Dying, said Emmerdale’s storyline “reflects the reality that many terminally ill people face under our outdated laws on assisted dying”.
She added: “The vast majority of the public support a change in the law.
“With assisted dying bills being considered in the Scottish, Jersey and Isle of Man parliaments, and momentum growing in Westminster, it is time for a full and fair debate in Parliament about how we can at last fix our broken law.”
Care Not Killing, a pro-palliative care group against euthanasia, critcised the Emmerdale plot.
Chief executive Dr Gordon Macdonald said: “What a pity ITV are yet again choosing to promote a view that dying and disabled people live terrible lives and have no option but to end them by suicide.
“This discriminatory and negative view, pushed by a few campaigners, has no place in the modern world and certainly should not be promoted by one of our nation’s most-loved soaps.”
He said legalising assisted suicide would “place huge pressure” on people worried about becoming a burden to their families.
He also pointed out that in Canada — where assisted dying is legal — some 1,700 people who took their own lives cited loneliness as a reason.
Dr Macdonald said: “Perhaps next time, the soap producers might talk to one of the UK’s amazing hospices, palliative care doctors or groups that actually look after the terminally ill and disabled people to hear about the reality of the lives of those dealing with conditions like cancer.”