An early morning phone call usually harbours bad news and this morning was no exception. My friend Olive had passed away during the night.
I only met Olive three years ago but there are some people you click with and Olive and I clicked. We became great friends. We sat for hours putting the world to rights. Olive was eager for change in Northern Ireland and it was no coincidence that we met at the birth of NI21. She was hopeful that a new political party could help to break the cycle of sectarian voting here and encourage people to be proud of their individual identies. She was bitterly disappointed that this did not materialise.
In May of 2015 she called me to say she was in hospital. Doctors were concerned and decided that the symptoms needed further investigation. When she called on a Sunday morning to say she was dropping over for a coffee I knew something was wrong. My worst fears were confirmed when she told me she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Olive’s twitter bio says that she was ‘ a happy cheerful person.’ It was this disposition that kept her happy and positive throughout her illness. I never once heard her say why me? Never once heard her complain despite coping with amputations and numerous infections, not to mention the chemo and the stays in hospital. She was interested in all that was going on in the political scene and in the NHS ( she was a member of UNITE) and she got out and about as much she could manage.
Olive was courageous in standing up before an audience in Stormont, telling her story and describing her symptoms so that a life might be saved. She also spoke on BBC Talkback, again to highlight the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
Her birthday was a couple of weeks ago and in her words it was ‘the most wonderful day’ and she felt very happy.
We will miss you Olive, as will Gary who has been your partner, best friend and carer. My condolences to her mum Breda, her sister Roisin and her long time friend Paula and to the wide circle of friends who are now mourning her loss.