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Sorcha Glenn family's vow over smear test campaign

Family’s vow over smear test campaign year after daughter’s Sorcha death

By Donna Deeney

Published 23/10/2015

Matt, and Christine and Vincent Glenn look through pictures of Sorcha
Matt, and Christine and Vincent Glenn look through pictures of Sorcha
Sorcha Glenn

Sorcha Glenn didn't realise it, but she only had hours to live when the love of her life presented her with a promise ring, signifying his commitment to her.

Although her battle with cervical cancer was almost over, 23-year-old Sorcha wanted her family to know how happy she was and wrote on her Facebook page from her bed in the Foyle Hospice: "This was a good day."

The following day Sorcha died, but a year after her passing her family is still campaigning for cervical cancer screening for young women - who are still excluded from the potentially life-saving procedure.

And tomorrow, on the first anniversary of Sorcha's death, 10 members of her family, including her partner Matt and her father Vincent, will take part in a sky-dive to raise funds in her memory for a cancer charity.

Sorcha is remembered by her family for her vitality, positivity and the "loudest laugh anyone ever had".

Her legacy will be the campaign she started that is now being carried on by her family to remove the age limit for cervical cancer screening. When Sorcha was diagnosed she was just 23, but the condition is considered so rare in young women that screening isn't available until the age of 25.

In June 2013 Sorcha noticed changes in her body and sought a smear test, but was turned away.

She insisted something was wrong and in August a second screening alerted doctors that all was not well. One month later, the young woman was told she had cancer.

Despite the hammer blow Sorcha realised that there must be many others like her and began to raise awareness of the need to screen from a lower age.

Christine and Vincent Glenn brought five children into this world, but on October 24, 2014 they faced the single most difficult thing any parent has to endure when they laid Sorcha to rest.

They set up Team Sorcha within days of her passing, and despite their ongoing grief, Sorcha's parents, along with her partner Matt, are continuing to campaign for a reduction in the minimum screening age.

"Sorcha was such a positive person and she had such determination and even during her treatment when things got complicated she picked herself up and kept going," said Christine.

"The treatment she needed was so aggressive - chemotherapy, radiotherapy and radial surgery, which robbed her of carrying her own child. But she stayed positive right up to the very end.

"On the day she was diagnosed she said: 'Right, I am going to have get on with this and fight', but somehow I knew it was a fight she wasn't going to win.

"She had such a tough time of it, she was in so much pain and it is a parent's instinct to comfort your child when they are in pain, but we couldn't even do that because it hurt her so much if we even put our hand gently on her.

"She was such a family person and she loved us all gathered around the table together and having a good time; she had the loudest laugh and people were just drawn to her."

Christine and Vincent, along with Sorcha's sisters Orlagh and Keelin and brothers Emmett and Cahir, did everything in their power to mirror her positive attitude and kept their tears for when they were not in front of her.

Vincent recalls the day in the hospital in Belfast when doctors told him there was nothing else they could do for his daughter.

"The doctors called me out into the corridor and told me, and I burst into tears, as you would expect, but I knew not to go back into the room and tell Sorcha that.

"I washed my face and composed myself, but straight away she said: 'You have been crying', so I told her the doctors were very worried about her and brushed passed the rest.

"I cried the whole way back to Derry, wondering how I was going to go in and tell her mother and brothers and sisters, but the first thing Christine said was: 'I know what you are going to say'."

Sorcha was brought home to Derry and to the Foyle Hospice on October 23. At her side was partner of four years, Matt.

He described Sorcha's joy when he gave her a promise ring. "She could not have been happier, she loved it so much and couldn't wait to tell everybody," he said.

Despite being on medication, Sorcha was able to write on her Facebook page. Matt said: "She wrote about how happy she was to be in the Foyle Hospice, how beautiful it was, and of course all about me giving her the longed for 'promise ring'.

"'This is a good day', she wrote, and the following day she left us."

The family have now written to the Prime Minister, asking him to back their campaign for a lower age for screening. The letter to David Cameron argues that since the screening age for women was set at 25 in 2004 the rate of cervical cancer has more than doubled in women aged 25 to 29.

The family also point out that, since 2007, there has been a three-fold increase in the rate of cervical cancer among 25-year-olds and that, in 2011, numbers of cervical cancer registrations peaked.

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