bThe family of a doting father-of-four have pair tribute to the “big, friendly giant” who died just five weeks after being told he had cancer.
James Day, 40, who played professional rugby for Hull FC, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer just five weeks ago after becoming troubled by stomach and back pains.
He later developed brain-related complications and needed three operations but after catching an infection his condition deteriorated quickly, Hull Live reports.
Mr Day’s sudden death has devastated his close family, including his parents Alana and Graham Day and his girlfriend of more than 20 years, Karina Brown.
The 39-year-old initially clocked eyes on him as a 14-year-old schoolgirl with the pair eventually getting together when she was 17.
“I instantly fell in love with him,” Miss Brown said. “We were together for 22 years and we had some absolutely brilliant times.
“He was a kind, generous person and everyone loved him. He was a big, friendly giant. He was a big kid and he was absolutely brilliant as a dad.
“He did everything for us and even in his last days it was always about the kids.”
Mr Day, who lived in Bransholme , had three children – Saffron, 21, Sacha, 19, and James Jnr, 17 – with Miss Brown, as well as a son from a previous relationship called Jordan Lane.
Paying tribute to his dad, James Jnr said: “He was a happy person all the time. He always used to say ‘just laugh it off’.
“There was not a bad bone in his body and he was such a lovely person who was so genuine.”
Jordan has followed in father’s footsteps by playing for Hull FC and his grandfather Graham described Mr Day as a “versatile” rugby league player.
He played for England as a schoolboy and was snapped up by Hull FC when he was 16. He played with current Hull FC coach Lee Radford but eventually had to retire through injury.
After experiencing worrying pains in his stomach, Mr Day tried to get help but Miss Brown says nobody knew what was wrong with her boyfriend.
“He was fighting a battle he knew nothing about and we don’t know how long he had it,” she said. “Things start to go through your mind and you just wonder when it started.
“I’m glad in the end that he didn’t know bad it was and he was still smiling, even at the end.”
Doctors at Castle Hill Hospital became concerned for Mr Day last Saturday when he began to deteriorate. His family were told he only had an hour left to live but he fought to stay alive for another four days.
Miss Brown says his death has left her children “devastated” and she has revealed that just a week before he died he asked her to marry him.
“It has been shocking for his children,” she said. “He was so proud of the kids and all their achievements and as a couple we still had so many plans together.
“I’m just taking every day as a new day and it has been strange to be at home without him. I miss him terribly but I know we will always have memories.
“We never got round to getting married and when he was in Hull Royal Infirmary he said ‘it looks like we’re going to have to get married sooner’.
“That was the last thing he said to me before he got transferred to Castle Hill and I said to him that we couldn’t get married in hospital but he became unresponsive after that.
“I expected him to get a little bit better and then I would have done it. I would have done anything to make him happy and I would have got married in hospital.”
Mr Day, who worked as an operations manager for wholesaler HB Clark, was always close to his parents. His mum has read dozens of tributes posted in memory of her son and she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of grief.
“For a big kid he has always been expressive. He was never afraid to express his love. He was the most laid back person and all he needed was his family.
“I knew he was loved but only now do I realise just how well-loved he was.”
Mr Day’s family have asked for donations to be made to the Dan Kitching 35 Foundation.