AUTHOR Emma Hannigan has been diagnosed with cancer for the ninth time in just six years.
The mother of two was informed three weeks ago that the disease has returned. She started a five-week course of radiation last Wednesday.
"I have breast cancer again but it's in the back of my head and my neck this time," Hannigan told the Irish Independent.
"It's attacking my lymph nodes and the cancer likes to attack those, so it can travel around my body.
"It's painful for the first time because it's on the back of my head and I've to lie on a very hard bed, but I know it will be gone by Christmas."
The 41-year-old, who is based in Bray, Co Wicklow, discovered in 2005 that she is a carrier of the BRCA gene.
The writer underwent a double mastectomy and had her ovaries removed as a precautionary measure in 2006, which reduced her chances of getting cancer.
But in 2007 she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time.
She was subsequently diagnosed in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and has undergone intensive rounds of chemotherapy and radiation over the years, losing her hair twice.
Despite her ordeal, the mother of two considers herself very fortunate.
"I'm not flippant about cancer, but I know I'm one of the lucky ones," she said.
"My prognosis is good, so that makes it very easy for me to be so positive.
"I know it will be gone shortly and I can get on with things."
Hannigan wrote her first book, 'Misconceived', in between hospital visits and recently released her latest paperback novel, 'Driving Home for Christmas'.
She was speaking at the Smock Alley Theatre, where she participated in a discussion on 'The Myth of the Perfect Woman' as part of the Dublin Book Festival yesterday.
"The inspiration came from the fact that a lot of people find Christmas a very difficult time," she said.
"I love Christmas myself, but I know many people don't so I wanted to explore that."
Hannigan wrote the novel last March and said that she turned her own home into a winter wonderland during the writing process.
"My poor husband, I had Wham's 'Last Christmas' playing and had the fairy lights up all over the place.
"I'm not allowed put the decorations up now until it's actually December, but I can't wait."