Friday 20 July 2018

'I'm not scared, just heartbroken'- Emma Mhic Mhathúna reveals cancer has spread to her brain

Some 221 women now confirmed affected by CervicalCheck scandal

Ordeal: Cancer sufferer Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Ordeal: Cancer sufferer Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Terminally ill mother-of-five Emma Mhic Mhathúna has been caught up in the CervicalCheck scandal. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Emma Mhic Mhathuna, from Baile na nGall, Co. Kerry pictured speaking to the media on leaving the Four Courts - after the settlement of a High Court action, also in pic, her solicitor, Cian O Carroll. Photo: Collins Courts

Cormac McQuinn, Kathy Armstrong and John Downing

TERMINALLY-ILL mother-of-five Emma Mhic Mhathúna has said she is "heartbroken" to discover that her cancer has spread to her brain.

The brave mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016 after previously receiving two incorrect smear test results, last week she was awarded €7.5 million in damages after taking legal action against the HSE and a US laboratory that was used in the Cervicalheck screening programme.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna (37) is not able to receive treatment for it as she also suffers from Crohn's Disease. She received the devastating news yesterday that her cancer has spread, saying on Facebook: "I found out today the cancer has spread to my brain , I'm not scared just heartbroken. I love my life , my children and all of you my new found friends."

Speaking on Today with Miriam on RTE Radio One today, she said: "I'm on edge at the moment, I found out yesterday, I was having a scan and then another to see how my scans are...

"My tumours are significantly bigger and it's on the left side of my brain, the symptoms will be seizures, loss of speech, concentration, there will be a loss of words, so I am a bit upset, obviously."

Ms Mhic Mhathúna was understandably emotional as she spoke candidly about the future and how her faith is helping her through her ordeal.

"I am in the best of care, I have so many people in the HSE behind me, there's no red tape there, it's just very sad.
"Someone asked me if I'm scared of dying and I'm not because I have my faith, it's the not knowing and trying to explain thing to my children.

"I've had to tell them if I have a seizure this is what they have to do and this is who they'll have to ring, it's just so uncertain and I don't like the unpredictability and how quick it's going.

"I have no control over it and in some ways I just wish it was all over," she explained.

She also said that she was happy to settle her legal action last week to ensure her children - who range in age from two to 16 years - will be financially taken care off in the future.

Emma Mhic Mhathuna said dress signalled confidence
Emma Mhic Mhathuna said dress signalled confidence

Ms Mhic Mhathúna said: "The €7.5 million doesn't mean any difference to me, I went in there I didn't take any nonsense because I want my children taken care off, every mouth guard and football boot adds up.

"It sounds a lot but when you divide it up between five children it's not.

"I want it boxed off, my kids to be taken care off and I felt the HSE should pay for that...

"My children have been taken care off, there's nothing they'll ever want, I did that for them, I think anyone would."

She also told listeners about how she has tried to explain to her children about what is hapening.

She said: "I tell my children everything up front, it's recommended by the Irish Cancer Society to keep the children informed because they can sense something is wrong and secrets can harm them.

"I tried to tell them in a funny way that there might come a day when mammy won't be talking and giving out.

"They're so good though."

Ms Mhic Mhathúna was speaking as the HSE confirmed today that 12 more women have been affected by the cervical screening scandal.

That brings the number of women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer after earlier smear tests were read incorrectly to 221.

The smears were subject to a clinical audit following their diagnosis but many of the women affected were not informed of the review or the outcome.

HSE interim director general John Connaghan confirmed the figure at this morning's meeting of the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

It came in response to questions from Labour TD Alan Kelly.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna said that she hopes that real changes are made so no other women experience what she has gone through.

She said: "It's not a nice situation, there are times when I break down and it just feels so wrong, I just hope they make changes and this doesn't happen to any other woman - I wouldn't wish this on anyone."

The controversy over the CervicalCheck service began at the end of April when Limerick mother-of-two Vicky Phelan was awarded €2.5m in a High Court settlement with a US lab after she got an incorrect smear test result.

11Vicky Phelan arri (Read-Only).png
Vicky Phelan Picture: Steve Humphreys

Ms Phelan told RTE Radio One that she will continue to help highlight this issue.

"I knew she was in a worse situation than me and not getting treatment so I was afraid she would get worse and she has.

"Fair play to Emma, as she said she got a €7.5 million settlement and that;'s a huge amount of money but it makes no difference - yes, that money will be there for her children but she would of course rather be there for her children herself.

"This is the reality for women and this is why I am still speaking out, this has to stop."

Mr Connaghan also told the PAC that there are now 35 active legal claims being dealt with in relation to the screening service.

He said three cases have also been settled and there are two additional potential cases.

Fianna Fail Deputy Leader Dara Calleary told the Dail today that nine weeks after the Taoiseach pledged swift action to address the cancer smear test debacle – a promised comprehensive review has not even started.

Deputy Calleary said the Mr Varadkar promised on May 2 that the comprehensive review would be done by the end of May.

Mr Calleary angrily asked why such promises were made when there was no follow-up. “All we got was words – words for which there was no follow through,” the Fianna Fáil deputy leader said.

The Fianna Fáil Mayo TD said the promise was made around the same time as the boss of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, caved in to pressure to resign. He pointed out that one of the women concerned, Ms Phelan, had this morning given another moving radio interview in which she described how her condition was continuing to deteriorate.

Replying for the Government Tánaiste Simon Coveney appealed to Mr Calleary to behave responsibly when commenting on a difficult situation. He said the Government was doing all it could to meet the needs of the women concerned.

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