There is nothing subtle about the name of Debbie Hall’s new dog. No hidden meaning at all. This bouncy licking machine is a cockapoo called Hope.

At her home near Carlisle, Debbie sits on the sofa with Hope nestling by her feet and confirms the reason for the name.

“You’ve got to believe,” she says. “Hope and faith.”

Both these qualities have been severely tested in Debbie, 50. But she continues to hope, and to defy the terminal cancer diagnosis she was given four years ago.

There is new hope. The tumours in Debbie’s liver have shrunk and remain stable. There is hope that she might not need the treatment which people have raised thousands of pounds to fund, although it is too early to say whether this will be the case.

Hope also that, if Debbie didn’t need the money, it could be used to help others with cancer to access the best treatment.

Helping cancer patients is nothing new to Debbie. Before her current illness she had raised tens of thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK and Eden Valley Hospice, by organising charity balls and taking part in runs.

She volunteered for MacMillan Nurses, supporting newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families.

Debbie has long known how cancer can hurt. In 2003 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, just as she began her dream job as a police officer.

In 2007 her mother Hilda died at 58, having fought breast cancer and brain cancer. Debbie underwent a mastectomy in 2003, and another after her mother’s death.

Four years ago tests revealed that Debbie had bone and liver cancer. “I was told three to six months without treatment, longer with treatment,” she says, with a calm which may surprise those who have not lived with cancer as Debbie has.

Despite chemotherapy, the tumours grew. In March last year one of her colleagues, Sergeant Chris Blain, set up an internet fundraising page to pay for pioneering treatment in Germany. The campaign is called ‘Help save Debbie’s life’.

It is testament to her popularity that almost £69,000 has so far been raised. Firefighters have washed cars for donations. There has been a Hollywood-themed ball, nights of live music, sponsored walks, and much more.

Last summer Debbie had liver biopsies taken. Some of the money raised was spent on testing them with hundreds of drugs to see which would tackle her tumours most effectively.

Debbie is now visiting the Christie Hospital in Manchester every three weeks for chemotherapy, and a drug designed to attack her tumours.

They have shrunk significantly. For the moment Debbie is happy to continue being treated at the Christie rather than in Germany.

She says: “I want to get the full potential of what’s on offer here. I still can utilise the German treatment. At the moment it’s a case of updating them with what’s going on here. I’m still potentially going to go there. Germany and America are much more advanced than we are, sad as it is to say.”

Her treatment at the Christie is funded by the NHS. If it proves successful, Debbie will be happy for what remains of the money raised to be used by other cancer patients.

“The German thing: it’s not like they’re pushing you to spend your money. They just want what’s best for you. I’ve had to spend a little bit, probably £8,000, for tests in Germany and the UK.

“Should I not ever need another penny of the money that’s been raised, as long as people that have donated are happy, other people should have the opportunity to be tested for the most suitable drugs.

“They test for about 600 cancer drugs available worldwide. There’s various tests. Some in the UK on the NHS, privately funded, or a combination of the two. I don’t think a lot of people know they can be treated elsewhere and there are other opportunities.

“I only established that I was able to have further treatment here because I pushed Christies to have liver biopsies. You have to be quite vigilant and do your research.”

Cancer is just one of the health challenges Debbie has faced. She recently returned to work part-time after becoming ill last December. She describes the initial symptoms as “fluey, very lethargic. No energy whatsoever.”

Staff at the Christie were concerned about her liver, especially when she became jaundiced. “They admitted me very quickly. I was worried that my liver was failing. Thankfully it wasn’t. As far as we could make out, it was nothing to do with the cancer.”

It turned out that a bile duct had narrowed, restricting toxins from leaving Debbie’s body. At Wythenshawe Hospital, also in Manchester, she had a procedure to insert a stent to help release toxins.

“During the procedure, they knocked my pancreas. That caused chronic pancreatitis. I was quite poorly. Not eating. Vomiting constantly. A lot of abdominal pain. A week and a half later they tried again. The same thing happened, although they put the stent in that time. I was in hospital for over a month. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Debbie came home but was weak. She was going upstairs on her hands and knees.

“It was quite a daunting, gruelling time. For all I’m getting reassurance that it’s not cancer-related, you still have that doubt in your mind. You’re so weak. All that’s in my head is ‘I need to become strong in case something else happens, to fight.’”

At the end of January, Debbie fell ill again. “I was in and out of consciousness. I was admitted to the Cumberland Infirmary. They were doing scans. My temperature was spiking. Again, there was no evidence that it was anything to do with cancer.”

This time the problem was inflammation of the bile duct and gall bladder. Debbie thinks this was a knock-on effect of pancreatitis.

After two and a half weeks she was released from hospital, and was finally able to resume cancer treatment.

“I feel a lot better,” she says. “When you’re lying in bed and you’ve got muscle wastage, you’re not eating... it’s not pleasant. I’m 100 per cent better than I was. Occasionally I had to use a wheelchair. That was just down to the weakness.”

Debbie lost two and a half stone during those difficult months. She has put a stone back on and feels good, other than sciatica in her right leg.

The treatment is working on her liver but it has not been as effective on cancer cells in her lower spine. These have led to bony fragments which have impinged on her sciatic nerve.

A former Currock and Upperby beat officer, PC Hall has been office-bound for the past few years. She is glad to have returned to work.

“It’s good for my mental health. I’ve been very lucky with where I work for the support that they give me, and for the support of my family and friends.

“I am optimistic. You’ve got to remember that cancer is an illness that you can live with. Don’t get me wrong: during my recent illness, people who know me were thinking ‘This isn’t good.’ Now I feel like I’ve turned a corner.”

Debbie turned 50 in March. She celebrated the occasion in Cuba with family and friends. “I still wasn’t 100 per cent. I just relaxed. It was a recuperating holiday. Fifty is just a number. I’m not thinking it’s a big deal.”

Did she ever doubt that she would reach this landmark? “I’ve never thought that,” she says. “I don’t think you can really put a time on a person’s life because we’re all different. You could get knocked over tomorrow - you just don’t know.

“I don’t walk around thinking ‘I’m ill.’ I just think I have to carry on like normal. Because I have friends, family, grandchildren. I don’t want to be treated any differently. I deal with certain things that happen on that journey when I need to.”

Asked if she feels proud to have come through so much and still be optimistic, there is a long silence.

“I wouldn’t say proud. I’m just being me. I just want to get through it and keep going. Whether it remains stable for the rest of my days and I can live a normal life, that’s good enough for me. I’ll be happy with that.

“If I can support somebody else by speaking to them, advising them, pointing them in the right direction... that makes me happy. Even without the illness I would want to help people.

“You have your dark days. I would never say you don’t have your dark days. You don’t know with this illness. Things change quite quickly.”

Debbie has a grown-up son, Martyn, and a five-year-old granddaughter, Skyla Rose.

“My granddaughter is my tonic. When you’re going through this kind of thing, I don’t think you can put a price on having quality time with your family. Making memories.

“I was in the hospital the other day. I saw a young girl. She probably was only in her teens. She had a tumour on the side of her head. Because you’re older and they’re young, you feel quite lucky really.”

In May, Debbie and Martyn attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace. Debbie was nominated by Sergeant Blain for the determination she has shown in recent years. She is grateful to him.

Debbie beams as she says: “Some of the royals were there; Charles and Anne. It was a lovely, amazing experience. You meet other people from all walks of life that are going through their own experiences. It was quite an emotional day. You’re making special memories with those that you love. It was nice to do it with Martyn.”

This story began with Debbie Hall helping others through fundraising and volunteering. Ideally the next chapter would see her helping others by donating her funds because she no longer needed them. Whether that can happen or not, Debbie is still fighting. She still has hope.