A DEVASTATED family have paid tribute to a bubbly and loving mum-of-four who kept her cancer a secret so she did not upset her loved ones.
Debbie Spencer-Cato, from Halifax, died aged just 40 in Calderdale Royal Hospital on Monday.
Her family knew she had been feeling ill for several weeks but did not know she had a cervical tumour that they believe she kept hidden, even from her husband and children.
“No one expected it,” said her brother Jason.
“I think she wanted to protect us, especially her children.
“There’s another angel in heaven now, another star in the sky.”
Debbie was one of 10 siblings who was born in London and moved to Elland when she was five.
She went to Brooksbank School and later moved to Halifax. She had several jobs including working as a care assistant, cleaning positions and working in a furniture store.
She was married to Stephen Spencer and had four children - 18-year-old Darren, 13-year-old Chloe, 12-year-old Emma and nine-year-old Chelsea.
“She was very family-orientated and she worshipped her kids,” said Jason.
“She was the life and soul of any part and always first on the dance floor.”
Debbie had been a member of The Salvation Army for many years and played the trumpet for the organisation’s band. She loved music, especially 60s and reggae songs, and enjoyed performing karaoke.
Her mum Angela said: “From being a child, she brought a lifetime of joy and happiness and had a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody.”
Her daughter Chloe said “She was a loving and kind person who always put others first and a loving mum.” Her husband Stephen added: “She was a loving wife who will be dearly missed.”
Her sister Nicola said Debbie was her “rock” and was always there for anyone who needed her. Her brother Jonny echoed those tribute and she will be greatly missed.
Debbie’s son Darren said: “Mum was the strongest person I’ve ever met. She would do anything possible to help her family and friends and would make everyone smile with her rendition of Lipstick on Your Collar.”
Her brother Dean said Debbie kept him out of trouble and her other brother Mark said she was “the best sister in the world”.
Debbie’s sister Vicky said: “She was always there for a shoulder to cry on. What a woman.”
Her brother Wayne said: “She will always be remembered for being a fantastic mum, a loud mouth, tom boy, stubborn, caring, brave and so much more.”
Her sister-in-law Lindsey said: “Debbie was one of my big sisters. She always called me her little sister as I’m youngest of all the bunch she was bubbly, crazy, funny and always made me smile and laugh.”
Jaimie, also a sister-in-law, said: “She always made me feel part of the family and was always there for me, no matter what. She always knew how to make me laugh and smile.