But as the first anniversary of her death came and went, her son Emmette is more determined than ever to spread the message about cancer prevention and the importance of early diagnoses.
Last week Emmette who is involved with the campaign #BeBraveBeBodyAwareBeCancerFree, attended the first shoot for the 2016 Legenderry calendar together with Sorcha Glenn’s mother and sister. Tragically, Sorcha lost her battle with cervical cancer in October 2014 aged just 23.
The first shoot was with Doire Dress Design who were top of the queue to offer sponsorship for the calendar, the proceeds of which will be split between the Foyle Hospice and the Irish Cancer Society.
The Foyle Hospice, where Emmette’s mother was nursed at the end of her life, is a charity which stays very close to his heart. A nurse himself, Emmette says that he is in awe of the work done by the hospice staff.
“The Foyle Hospice allowed my mother control and dignity at the end of her life which is something that we will always be grateful for,” said Emmette.
“I would describe the people who nursed her as angels. I’m ashamed to say that like a lot of people I was one of those who used to say ‘Oh the hospice gets everything, it must have enough money to run’. But the truth is that that the hospice only receives official funding of £600,000 and the running costs are £3 million a year. They need all the help that they can get to make up that shortfall and I am glad to be of help in any way that I can.
“The other thing that people don’t seem to realise is the scale of services and geographical areas covered by the hospice care team. They provide services right across the North West as far out as Enniskillen.
“I am totally committed to getting the message out there that prevention is better than cure. It was so lovely to meet Sorcha Glenn’s family at the shoot. They are an inspiration, they are so tight knit and also committed to spreading the message of prevention and early detection. I looked at them at the shoot and while I felt proud to be with them I also felt awful because I had no words of comfort to offer them over their terrible loss. There are no words of comfort to give when you lose a loved one, you just learn to live with it a little bit better.”
Emmette’s commitment to prevention and early detection stems from his mother Ann Marie’s experiences when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer aged just 39. Because of her young age she was told that tests to determine the exact pathogen of her cancer weren’t available to her for 12 weeks but if she paid to go privately then they would be done the next day.
“When my mum was diagnosed her cancer was already at stage three,” said Emmette. “We were told that she would have to wait for tests which would help identify the best possible course of action. We felt that it was like she was being punished for having cancer. It was just horrible. To be made so aware of your own mortality and then to be told that you can’t get the treatment you need straight away. What we want to push for is for everyone to be aware of their own bodies and act early on any changes they feel are happening.
“My mum felt that something wasn’t right and what I have found from my own work as a nurse on the oncology ward and from visits to the Sperrin Room with my mother is that a lot of the patients there felt the same thing. Talking to each other they would discover that they were often aware of their own symptoms even if those symptoms weren’t diagnosed straight away.
“That’s what Be Body Aware is all about. I believe that often people know themselves when something isn’t right and I would say; please don’t wait. Go and have a check up. If people feel embarrassed I would say to them that a few minutes’ discomfort for an examination or blood tests is better than being diagnosed with incurable cancer or having to go through aggressive treatments.
“While my mum was only given six months to live after her diagnosis, she lived for another seven years and had every treatment that she could possibly have. She even travelled to Brazil twice to see a healer. Despite all of the treatments, in the space of that seven years she managed to get a social work degree, she got married, swam with dolphins and when she died aged just 45 it was because her body gave up but she never did.
“My mum should still be here, Sorcha Glenn should most definitely still be here. She had symptoms, she had a family history of cervical cancer and still she wasn’t diagnosed until it was too late. Meeting with Team Sorcha was amazing but also very sad. We are all committed to getting this message out there.
“The statistics for cancer are now showing that one in every two people will have the disease at some point. Are we going to let statistics get to the stage where cancer is affecting every single person?
“People have said that the calendar is embarrassing or lewd but it’s not, it’s implied nudity. And as I said what’s worse, a little embarrassment or a cancer diagnosis?”