Dame Barbara Windsor may have made the decision to kill off Peggy Mitchell for good - but that didn't stop her getting upset when she filmed her final EastEnders scenes.
The 78-year-old will return to Albert Square for a last stint as the former Queen Vic landlady. But in emotional scenes, doctors will tell Peggy her breast cancer has returned and is now terminal.
Her son Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp) will rush back to see her as he makes a brief return to the show, alongside Peggy's daughter Sam Mitchell (Danniella Westbrook).
Dame Barbara told the Mirror: "I made the decision a while ago that I need to say goodbye to Peggy once and for all as otherwise she will always be there, urging me to go back, and that is something I needed to shut the door on.
"After thinking long and hard about it, I realised that it is time for me and the audience to say our final farewells to the lady who I have loved for many years.
"When I finished filming the last scene, I couldn't say anything. I knew that if I opened my mouth I would sob. But I couldn't do that, because this is my choice."
She added: "There were lots of tears from everyone. Everybody was sad. I love everyone here, I kind of got that 'have I made the right decision?' feeling in my stomach. But I knew I had."
Dame Barbara has starred as the no-nonsense pub landlady since 1994, and was a long-running soap favourite.
After two decades in Walford, Dame Barbara said she was still a committed fan of the BBC soap.
"I write little notes about it, phone the producer up," she revealed. "I really love it. I always did and always will. Although Peggy's going, the show will always remain so close to my heart."
The EastEnders matriarch reserved special praise for her on-screen sons, Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and Grant, who will reunite for the storyline - and said she could not have filmed the scenes without her boys by her side.
She said: "It was good to see the two Mitchell boys together. It's been wonderful.
"I think of them as very, very dear friends. I've been very blessed to have had both Steve and Ross as my on-screen sons as they are both great actors. I couldn't have come back and filmed my final scenes without us all together."