Family to take part in Marie Curie walk as tribute to RVH nurse Orla MacManus after her death at age 49
The family of a west Belfast nurse who died just eight weeks after being diagnosed with cancer is taking on a special fundraising challenge in her memory.
Orla MacManus, who worked in the clinical assessment unit in the Royal Victoria Hospital, died in the early hours of Thursday, April 11.
The 49-year-old, who had a daughter and four grandchildren, was told 60 days previously that she had stage 4 lung cancer with secondary tumours in her lymph nodes, liver and kidneys.
She had no symptoms and was in work when she felt unwell and was assessed by her colleagues.
Following an X-ray it was discovered that she had fluid around her heart and was told cancerous cells had been found.
It was planned that Orla would have a course of immunotherapy to help fight the cancer.
But her lungs filled with fluid, meaning she was no longer a candidate for the treatment.
Orla and her partner Connor had taken a trip to Prague days before her diagnosis.
On their return the first signs that something wasn't right appeared.
Orla's sister Paula said: "They both felt a bit unwell and just put it down to catching a bug on the plane. When things didn't improve for Orla she went down to the hospital explaining about her breathlessness.
"Initially they thought she had pneumonia, but then they discovered her whole heart was surrounded by fluid.
"Orla had an emergency operation and they found the cancer cells.
"She was at stage 4 and the following week she was told it had spread across her whole body - she knew how bad it was, and that was hard for her.
"They started her on her first course of immunotherapy and for a short while she had no symptoms, but then her lung filled with fluid and it kept happening and she wasn't strong enough for any more treatment.
"At this stage Orla knew that she would probably have less than six months, but no one expected her to go as quickly as she did."
After being in and out of hospital, for Orla's final two weeks she got a bed at the Marie Curie Hospice in Belfast.
The family had experience of Marie Curie before, as their father Pat spent his final week at the hospice the year before.
Paula added: "We knew from being there with dad what to expect when we entered the hospice - it's a calm place and there are more personal touches.
"Being at the hospice made an awful situation as easy as it could be.
"The day before Orla passed away she turned and said to me: 'The cancer's got me'. So we felt like she knew. We made sure she was surrounded by everyone who loved her. She died at 2.30am the next morning.
"Right up until that moment Orla maintained her sense of humour, she was joking with the medical staff; she made a big impact wherever she went.
"There were plenty of laughs among the tears at the hospice.
"I think with dad it was easier to accept, as he was older. Orla was so young, she was in a new relationship and after only dating a year, she and Connor were still in the honeymoon phase.
"It didn't feel fair, but in the circumstances Orla dealt with it as well as she could."
Paula and her siblings have been fundraising for Marie Curie since their dad's death in March 2018 and will take part in next month's Twilight Walk in memory of both their father and sister.
"Marie Curie did so much for us. It's a very special place, with very special people. It's such a brilliant place and that's why we're doing the Twilight Walk this September with over 30 family members and friends," Paula added.
The 7K Twilight Walk will take place on Friday, September 27 around Barnett Demesne, taking in Shaws Bridge towpath and the Lock Keepers Cottage.
To take part and join Orla's family, visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/twilightwalk.