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Sunday 22 September 2019

'She did everything right' - partner of woman diagnosed with cervical cancer after two misread smear tests

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THE partner of one of the 208 women affected by the smear test controversy has penned an emotional letter calling for an apology for his other half who was diagnosed with cancer after two routine smear tests came back clear.

The woman's partner, who "worries about her every second", revealed their hopes of having a family are now greatly diminished due to the treatment for the stage 2b cancer that was eventually diagnosed in 2016.

The woman has been out of work for two years and the couple are angry at the manner in which she was informed of her misread smears - at a meeting which she attended alone.

The pair also questioned why they were not contacted again this week when news of the scandal broke - something that has greatly added to their distress.

A lengthy email sharing their story was read out by Ray D'Arcy on his RTE Radio One show on Wednesday.

Read the email in full below:

Dear Ray,

Like everyone in the country I am appalled with the cervical cancer crisis that was bought to the attention this week.  Unfortunately my beautiful partner is one of the 208 women that had a missed cervical cancer diagnosis after two routine smears in 2011 and 2015.

When she was not feeling well in 2012 - one year after her 2011 routine smear - she presented to her GP with some symptoms of cervical cancer. The doctor told her not to worry as her ‘smear was normal and there is nothing to worry about! Her doctor relied 100% on the smear result.

In 2015 her routine smear was also read as normal. One year later in 2016 she again presented to her GP with serious cervical cancer symptoms and she was shortly afterwards diagnosed with stage 2b cancer requiring intense radiation, chemotherapy. She responded well to the treatment thank god.

When her smears by cervical check were reviewed as part of a cervical check audit when women get invasive cervical cancer - not one, but her two routine smears from 2011 and 2015 were seen to have abnormal cells.

It took the hospital over a year before she was told of the misread smears. She was invited into the hospital all by herself a year after her treatment finished without anyone with her as support to a serious meeting with her gynaecologist to tell her that there was an audit of her smears. She was never told by the hospital that she was undergoing an ‘open disclosure process’. The language that was used was suggesting that ‘she was unlucky to find herself in this position’.. cervical check were not forthcoming that something went wrong or that someone made a mistake.

Nothing to see here!!!!

She cried in the car on the way home as they did not tell her to bring someone with her to the meeting. It was extremely difficult for her and very badly handled.

In terms of her recovery and impact she has not worked for the last two years to keep herself well.Her dream of having kids has now been dramatically  reduced as the radiation destroyed all her ovaries and eggs. We had to go through IVF the week she was diagnosed. We have some embryos but our chances of having kids is now only through surrogacy. She is on the road to recovery but we are always afraid for the medium and long term. I'm so proud of her and all I want is her to be well, I worry about her every minute as I'm sure anyone can understand.

I must note that when she got the treatment the nurses were incredible which is important to say.But I'm angry that this has happened even though she did everything right. She got her routine smears and went to her GP with symptoms

I’m really disappointed that the HSE or cervical check did not contact her this week as her file would suggest that she went through the disclosure process and informed of the misread smear. They should have called her to see if she has any questions and to get an apology of sorts.

When I then tried to meet cervical check after she was told of the audit the senior gynaecologist did not come into the meeting as they knew I would ask the hard questions. That was 6 months ago.  When I asked a clinical nurse who met me with my partner i.e. the nurse representing cervical check I asked her is cervical check worried about the results that my partner received in terms of other women being impacted and would they re test the smears.. She avoided all the important relevant questions we had and said things like "you find yourself in an unlucky position’ and it's great that you are responding well" which is true but it completely evaded all my hard questions.

My questions are:

Why was not all of the 208 women contacted -just because we were told of the error before. We are under huge stress listening to everything this week. We deserved a call.

What is also shocking is that the audit of the smears was completed by the lab that did the original test of the smear which is terrible governance.

How can we trust the reaudited results from a lab that messed up initially?

My advice to your listeners is to trust your hunch and also to trust your body, listen to it.   Please also get checked as often as you feel you need.

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