Dustin Diamond died Monday following a battle with cancer, and the 44-year-old Saved By the Bell alum was not alone in his final moments. After being taken off breathing machines, Diamond took his final breaths with his girlfriend, Tash Jules, at his side, the actor's longtime manager Roger Paul told PEOPLE shortly after news of Diamond's passing broke.
Little is known about Diamond and Jules' relationship, though they had reportedly been dating for more than a year by the time Diamond passed away Monday morning. TMZ, which was the first to break the news of Diamond's death, reported that Jules was at his side as he passed. The actor's representatives later confirmed such to numerous outlets, and soon released a statement confirming his passing that in part read, "He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful."
According to Paul, it was Jules who convinced Diamond to go to the hospital in mid-January after he began experiencing pain throughout his body. The 44-year-old had been "feeling out of sorts and he'd had a lump on his neck that he was ignoring." Diamond was reportedly initially reluctant to see a doctor because "he was afraid of the public attention if he went into the hospital." Paul said, "but finally, his girlfriend took him and the doctors confirmed it was cancer." Diamond and his team confirmed shortly after his hospitalization that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, which Paul called a "brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer." He quickly began treatment and attempted to maintain a positive attitude and outlook.
"Of course he was scared, but he tried to find the humor in it. He did chemo — he tried everything possible. But it didn't work," Paul said. "Dustin tried to be as positive as he could throughout everything — that's who he was — but he was scared. He didn't want to die."
Diamond, one of the six core cast members of the beloved teen sitcom Saved By the Bell, died Monday morning, news of his death breaking that afternoon. Tributes immediately poured in, including from his former co-stars. Tiffani Thiessen wrote on Instagram that she was "deeply saddened" to learn of Diamond’s passing, adding, "life is extremely fragile and it's something we should never take for granted." Lark Voorheis, meanwhile, said, "Words cannot experience the grief that I am feeling right now." Diamond is survived by his mother, girlfriend, and "very loving friends."