Cervical cancer sufferer Orla Church laid to rest today

Cervical cancer sufferer Orla Church laid to rest today
The funeral cortege leaves church afte the funeral mass of Orla Church. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

Orla Church sang in a choir, which called itself the 'Bank Notes'. She had a job in the Central Bank. She loved all things French, wine and cheese included - in fact her favourite restaurant was Chez Max. Orla cooked lavish meals on a Sunday for large family get-togethers.

At 54, Orla Church is the latest woman to die of cervical cancer, having had two clear smear test results in 2011 and 2014. She was laid to rest today.

Orla Church
Orla Church

At funerals it is common for items to be left on top of the coffin representing key things in the deceased's life. For Orla, all that was left on her coffin was a framed photograph of her beloved nieces and nephews and a hedgehog, representing her lifelong love of animals.

The eldest of six children, and survived by her parents Charlie and Maureen, Orla was eulogised by her younger brother David, at her funeral mass in the Church of Our Lady of Consolation, in Donnycarney.

A vivacious woman, who lived life to the full, with friends and family at the centre of it, she was described as "loved," "adored" and a "treasure".

"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," David said.

"Orla was the boss of the family, the glue that kept it together. Her legendary Sunday dinners were not to be missed. She loved seeing all the family and kids together to catch up every weekend. Over the years she honed her cooking skills where she added more cream, butter and garlic.

"The kids would all tell her their stories from the week, from school or college, the latest boyfriend or girlfriend on the scene and the holidays they had planned. She loved all the nieces and nephews as if they were her own. She never missed a birthday," he added.

Orla had spent time in France in her late teens and also lived in London for five years. Twenty-five years later, she had remained in touch with her friends from this time.

He said how her singing group had given both "great joy" and provided a "lovely distraction" for her in the last year of her life.

David also spoke of activism work in relation to the cervical smear check scandal.

"Orla campaigned behind the scenes to improve the health services for women in the country. I know Orla would take huge comfort in knowing the work she was involved in would make a difference in the lives of many other women and families in the future," he said.

Following two apparently clear smear test results in 2011 and 2014, Orla had possible symptoms of cancer in 2015.

She was referred to a gynaecologist and was put on a 15-month waiting list as her previous smear test results had returned as "normal". Orla paid privately for an appointment and discovered she had a rare form of cervical cancer, adenocarcinoma, which is less likely to be picked up by smear tests.

Her family has called for the early introduction of HPV testing for cervical cancer as a way of honouring her memory.

“Through all the research she had done, she knew that HPV testing would be more accurate. She believed in the cervical screening programme but she also wanted to make it better," her sister Áine McEneff said.

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