EastEnders’ sorrow as Peggy learns her cancer has spread and she hasn’t long left to live. Dame Barbara Windsor tells Soaplife the story…

So, Peggy’s back to die… But why now?

“I made the decision a while ago that I need to say goodbye to Peggy once and for all, otherwise she’ll always be there, urging me to go back, and that’s something I need to shut the door on. I realised it’s time for me and the audience to say our final farewells to the lady who I’ve loved for many years. I also thought that while Dominic Treadwell-Collins, who I adore, is still in charge at Enders, I want him to be the one to oversee it.”

And Peggy wants to end her days in Albert Square?

“She knows she needs to be with her family. She briefly saw Phil before and she can’t just leave it there. Albert Square was a huge part of her life and that’s where she wants to be.”

So why did she go to Ronnie’s and avoid Phil?

“Part of her is probably scared to tell him what’s going on. It’s easier for her to talk to Ronnie [Sam Womack] about it. At this point, she doesn’t know how severe the cancer is. She probably has an idea, but she doesn’t know for sure. She wants to know everything before she goes to Phil [Steve McFadden] and break the news to him.”

Then the doctors tell Peggy the cancer has spread…

“There’s a moment of shock for her, but deep down she always knew this is what the doctor would say. It doesn’t take her long to accept it. She’s known for a while.”

How does Phil react?

“It’s difficult for both of them. Peggy can see how much her boy is hurting, but he needs to know the truth. He doesn’t take it well. He can’t accept this is it and he wants her to fight for everything. But she has been fighting and now there’s nothing else that can be done.”

How does Peggy feel being reunited with her family?

“It’s bittersweet. Seeing her grandchildren is particularly special for her. Apart from Phil and Ronnie, no one knows what’s going on and that’s the way Peggy wants it. They have no idea. She’s such a strong and proud woman and she doesn’t want them to feel sad for her, or worry for her. She wants to do what she’s always done and put her family first.”

We know Grant (Ross Kemp) and Sam (Danniella Westbrook) are returning, too. What can you tell us?

“It’s such a special week and there are lots of surprises. The episodes are something fans won’t want to miss. They did me proud. It’s a perfect ending for Peggy.”

EastEnders, BBC1