Sorcha Glenn’s family campaigning for Cervical Cancer Awareness this January

Team Sorcha and the Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group are campaigning for Cervical Cancer Awareness this January.

Sorcha Glenn died in 2014 from Cervical Cancer after being denied a Smear test because she was ‘too young.’ Sorcha’s sister, Orlagh Robson, is campaigning with her family and the Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group to lower the age of cervical smears and to raise awareness of the signs of cervical cancer.

Orlagh said, “Quite a bit has changed in the past seven years since Sorchas death. When we first started, a lot of the research used to say that they couldn’t treat under 25s because the treatment would cause pre-term pregnancies and problems with people conceiving. We challenged all that and did our own Team Sorcha paper to show that there is no research behind it and it’s not true. So if you look at any of the information now that’s publicised, it never says that under 25s can’t get treatment because of the risk to pre-term labour. That’s been eradicated. You’ll see now that in England, Wales, Scotland and in the North of Ireland they do HPV Primary testing too. That’s a move in the right direction as well.

“I noticed that the culture around smear tests has changed a lot. ‘Smear test’ isn’t a dirty work any more. Before, people would whisper it but now people talk about it openly, it’s something everyone with a cervix has to do.

“Our campaign is always around continued awareness. Making sure that women know the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer and that they know when to go to their GP if there’s any irregularities. Most of the time it’s not cancer but there’s always treatment for any issue. No woman should ever suffer in silence.

The campaign group have put up a poster with ‘Don’t Fear the Smear’ at Free Derry Corner.

Orlagh said, “We love to see the poster at Free Derry Corner. It brings a happy tear and sad tear to your eye every time you see the picture but it’s great to see and it’s great to see the awareness getting out there and there’s no better place for it. Everyone drives that way and it’s big and bright and colourful so will draw plenty of attention.”

“We will continue with our Smear On Demand Campaign alongside other campaigns in England such as Ambers Law which is in the North of England and Lucy Jones and Fay Knowles Foundation which is Leeds based. We’ve all come together for the Smear on Demand Campaign now. That means if someone does present to their GP or rings their nurse looking for cervical screening, they’re not just point blank told no. That there is a discussion there on why they want screened, if they’re having abnormalities, having a discussion on why this might be happening, giving an examination if it’s needed, giving them cervical screening if it’d needed and referring them on to appropriate services if it’s needed too. It’s about that person not having the ‘no’ straight away - understanding why they want it. We know nowadays that some 25 year olds have a family, they might have four or five children. They shouldn’t be referred at 25 for cervical screening, it should be long before that. Hopefully with HPV screening too that will help people being able to be seen earlier.

“It can be very tough to be so open about our struggle and talk about it often, at the end of the day I lost my sister, my best friend in my life. That grief is always going to be there at the forefront of everything we do. Some days you can get up and talk about the happy times but other days the grief takes over and the tears are dropping. When you’re going up against high power authorities over in Westminster and they’re seeing your sister as a number or a statistic rather than a person, that can be very difficult at time. You develop coping mechanisms and you use them to continue.

“We know what we’re doing it right and that what we’re doing is saving lives. We are changing the culture around it and people now know that when they’re 25, they go for a smear test and if they have any irregularities they go to their GP. That’s a massive step in the right direction. We know that’s saving lives.

“Sorcha was the most fun and bubbliest girl you’d ever meet. She was brilliant craic. She was very beautiful and very driven, just before she had her cancer diagnosis she moved into a new house with her boyfriend and got a job as a manager. She was very driven to get on with life and I think that helped her during her treatment too. She was an absolute joy to be around even throughout her treatment. I remember the day she got diagnosed with cancer I found out I was pregnant so when she was packing for her radical hysterectomy, I was packing to have a baby and she was packing the same things as me because it was all similar things for recovery. She wanted to come over to England to see me before I had the baby and before her surgery to pack my bag and organise the babies wardrobe and things, she was always really reliable and dependable and was a joy to be around. She would spend four days getting ready for a night out and have my mammies bathroom covered in fake tan. She was just a Derry Girl through and through.

“She was 23 and she had her whole life in front of her that was taken away. As the years go on, you see the things she’s missing out on that she could have had. She’s at the age now where a lot of her friends are having babies and getting married and that can be difficult at times because you think that could have been her. But unfortunately that’s not how it played out. We feel so lucky to have had the 23 wonderful years that we did have with her. We would have wanted 23 or 53 more but that wasn’t what happened. So if we can help any other family to not have to go through what we had to go through as a family and what Sorcha’s partner Matt had to go through or what Sorcha herself had to go through, then we 100% will prevent that and I think that’s what drives us too.”