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Geraldine learned her cancer was terminal on her 44th birthday - six months later she lost her battle

By Claire Williamson

"She was my sister and best friend and I miss her greatly."

Those are the words of Mid and East Antrim Council chief executive Anne Donaghy, whose sister passed away from ovarian cancer last year.

Geraldine was just 45 when she succumbed to what Anne branded the "silent killer".

She described the late mum-of-two and grandmother-of-one as a "real lady" and said she misses her every day.

Anne (47) said she and Geraldine along with their other sister Kathleen (44) were the best of friends. She cherishes a photo she has of them all together on Geraldine's 44th birthday on August 19, 2016.

Poignantly, it was the day that Geraldine had found out her cancer was terminal - but she didn't tell her siblings that until later.

Ahead of her diagnosis, Geraldine put her symptoms down to a kidney infection or the "middle age spread".

"She didn't go to the doctor until later on," Anne said. "She said she didn't have time to go. She was self-employed and really she just left it.

"By the time she got diagnosed it was Stage 3 ovarian cancer. The doctor said, 'I don't know how you've stuck the pain' and Geraldine said she 'worked every day'. They couldn't believe that she worked on right through and that was way back before she was diagnosed in August with Stage 4.

"She worked on through that and didn't stop until she lost her hair - she just didn't have the energy."

Anne recalled a heart-wrenching conversation she had with her sister a few weeks before her death on March 3, 2017.

"She got home and was very sick, but was always still trying her best to stay upbeat and she said, 'Anne do you think I'm going to die?'

"And I never answered. And she said, 'Can you please help me, because you can fix everything'.

"And I held her hand and said, 'I can't fix this'. And she said, 'But you fix everything'."

Anne always turned to her sister for advice and now she tries to live by some of the final things she told her - the main one being to "simplify your life".

She said: "Simplify your life, because I would give everything I own for one more normal day of life."

She continued: "She didn't want anything, she just wanted an ordinary day. One more day without any pain."

Anne says sometimes it's easy to "slip back into the rat race" but every so often she reminds herself to "stand back" thanks to her sister's words.

Despite Geraldine's unrelenting positivity, Anne said she had a "very cruel death".

And before she passed away she asked for her coffin to be left open because she wanted people "to see what this does to you".

"She said if one person can be saved from looking at me, I'd be happy."

Anne added: "On the day Geraldine died, I lost a best friend and a sister all in one go and so did Kathleen."

Today, Mid and East Antrim Council is holding a charity football match aimed at raising awareness of ovarian cancer at Ballymena Showgrounds from 6pm to 8pm.

Anne said she is eternally grateful for the support from her council colleagues who are taking part. She added: "This is to raise the profile for every woman, but deep in my heart, I will spend today thinking and reflecting on Geraldine, and I see it as a bit of a legacy."

Belfast Telegraph

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