Sunday 21 July 2019

'Her work will make a difference to many women,' funeral of CervicalCheck activist Orla Church hears

Campaigner: Orla Church had a rare form of cervical cancer
Campaigner: Orla Church had a rare form of cervical cancer

Fiona Dillon and Eilish O'Regan

THE late CervicalCheck cancer activist Orla Church would take “huge comfort in knowing that the work she was involved in will make a difference to the lives of many women and their families in future,” her funeral mass heard today.

Her brother David spoke movingly at her requiem mass in Our Lady of Consolation, Donnycarney about how Orla had campaigned behind the scenes for the improvement of health services for women.

He said “even when she knew it was too late to change her own fate” she had worked alongside health professionals creating guidelines for doctors to help identify and diagnose the illness.

Ms Church lost her battle with cervical cancer last Saturday, and hundreds of people attended her funeral mass today.

Mr Church said she was the eldest of six, and “she was a wonderful sister, an amazing aunt to her 12 nieces and nephews, and most importantly she was a treasured daughter to my parents.”

From Beaumont in north Dublin, he told how his sister who was 54, loved to travel. “She spent some time in France in her late teens. She loved French food and French wine.”

He said that she was “strong, intelligent, witty and articulate.”

“Orla was the boss of the family, the glue that kept us together. Her legendary Sunday dinners were not to be missed.

"She loved seeing all the family, and the kids getting together to catch up every weekend.”

He told how she was a keen animal lover, and she loved all her nieces and nephews like they were her own, and never missed a birthday, was always ready with a cake and always ready to celebrate.

She moved to England in 1989 and spent about five years in London where she made some great friendships, and had worked as an analyst in the Central Bank, and also enjoyed singing in a choir.

Her coffin was adorned with lillies, and her nephew Stephen Grealy placed a photo of Orla on it. The mass was celebrated by Fr Vasyl Kornitsky.

During the mass, prayers were said for “comfort and healing” for all the women and their families that have been affected by the same illness that Orla fought so bravely with dignity and grace.”

Prayers were also said for the medical staff who had cared for her during her illness.

Ms Church had been praised by Health Minister Simon Harris for her contribution to guidelines for doctors on cervical cancer.

She had possible symptoms of the cancer in 2015. But when referred to a gynaecologist she was put on a 15-month waiting list because her smear test results were returned as "normal".

She paid privately for an appointment and discovered she had cervical cancer.

She had previously got two clear test results in 2011 and 2014 after going for screening with CervicalCheck.

Ms Church researched her condition, a rarer form of cervical cancer called adenocarcinoma, which is less likely to be picked up by smear tests.

It spurred her to liaise with Dr Peter McKenna of the National Women and Infants Health Programme to use her experience to input into guidelines for doctors.

A spokeswoman for Mr Harris said yesterday he had the privilege of meeting Ms Church.

He was impressed by her determination to bring her experience to bear on making improvements for the future.

"She made a singular contribution leading to and collaborating on the production of new clinical guidelines related to her condition," she said.

The funeral mass this morning was followed by burial at Balgriffin Cemetery.

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