Man to complete charity cycle after fiancée (30) dies days before wedding

Aoife O’Donovan died last month just 18 months after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer

A man whose fiancée died of cervical cancer just three days before they were due to get married is to take part in a 197km charity cycle from Dublin to the churchyard where she was laid to rest in her native Dungarvan in Co Waterford.

Kevin Cullen (32) of Walkinstown in Dublin met his fiancée Aoife O’Donovan (30) at a house party in the summer of 2012 when they were both on J1 visas in the United States with different groups of friends.

He recalled that he started chatting to her in the queue for the bathroom, and joked she could have his place in line if she came back to talk to him afterwards. After completing their studies, they lived together in San Francisco and London, and later moved back to Ireland. They got engaged in 2018 and planned to wed in 2022.

However, Ms O’Donovan died last month just 18 months after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Mr Cullen had applied for an injunction so they could marry in the hospital ward. She died on May 1st with the wedding having been scheduled to take place just three days later.

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In an interview with Newstalk, Mr Cullen said that his fiancée had a form of cervical cancer which didn’t show up on her smear tests. His aim is to raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society as he believes she would like to raise awareness about all types of cancer.

He said says Aoife started noticing irregular bleeding in the summer of 2020. “She was getting worried about it. It started getting heavier and we went to the doctor. I brought Aoife to the Coombe [hospital], where they took a biopsy of a mass they found on her cervix.

“She was diagnosed with a non-HPV cervical cancer. I didn’t know this at the time but it was a cancer that wouldn’t be detected with a smear test. So my understanding is that a smear test will detect approximately 80 percent of cervical cancers. But this was something I wasn’t aware of.”

It was then confirmed that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes around her cervix, and later through her lymphatic system.

“I am so proud of her – of how hard she fought. I feel like I was in a similar position or a position a man could be in I wouldn’t have lasted so long. She was a real fighter,” said Mr Cullen.

The couple had initially planned to get married at Kilkee Castle but “we cancelled that wedding and said we would do something small when the time was right – that we would focus on her health”, Mr Cullen said. “About six weeks ago when the cancer was really progressing and time was running out I applied to get a court injunction to avoid the 90-day waiting period so we could rush a wedding through.

“Our wedding was due to be scheduled on the Wednesday the fourth of May and Aoife died on the first of May which was the Sunday. It is devastating. The wedding aspect is just another sad dynamic to the story but in the grand scheme of things the fact that I lost Aoife outweighs everything. It is heartbreaking.”

Mr Cullen said his fiancée wanted to educate people about the symptoms of non-HPV cervical cancer. The holder of a MA in environmental policy from University College Dublin, Ms O’Donovan worked with the business representative group Ibec.

“When Aoife was sick she was telling people about her irregular bleeding and some women were saying, ‘Oh gosh I irregularly bleed now and then’. I would just like to be her voice on this and encourage people to get checked out,” said Mr Cullen. “I would encourage people to get any bleeding checked out.”

The cycle is due to take place next September. Donations to the GoFundMe page in aid of the Irish Cancer Society can be made at gofund.me/3a9c4553