Monday 20 May 2019

'She should be kissing her children as they go out to school' - Vicky Phelan on Emma Mhic Mhathúna's death

  • Vicky Phelan praises Emma Mhic Mhathúna on her brave fight against cancer
  • Tributes pour in from around the country following news of mum-of-five's death
  • Funeral details announced for Emma Mhic Mhathuna
  • 'Emma did us all a huge service with her advocacy for the HPV vaccine' - Taoiseach
Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Photo: Collins Courts
Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Photo: Collins Courts

Olivia McGill and Ian Begley

Vicky Phelan has praised Emma Mhic Mhathúna on her brave fight against cancer and especially in succeeding to win money from her case to provide for her children.

Mother-of-five Emma Mhic Mhathúna (37), who bravely battled cancer after being caught up in the CervicalCheck scandal, died yesterday morning.

Vicky Phelan, whose court case brought the scandal to light, said Emma should be making school lunches and waving her children off to school today.

"My kids have gone out to school this morning," Ms Phelan told Newstalk's Breakfast programme.

"That's what her children should be doing, she should be doing their lunches and giving them a kiss on the head as they go out the door. It’s the small things, they're the things that matter as a mother."

Vicky is going through treatment for cancer herself and while things are good for her at the moment, there is always the danger that it will stop working, she says.

Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhathúna were both affected by the CervicalCheck controversy
Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhathúna were both affected by the CervicalCheck controversy

"It’s very hard," Ms Phelan she said.

"That could be my reality in the not too distant future. You want to be there for your children.

"I had my last dose of [the drug I am on] a few days ago. I had the result of my most recent scan last week. Everything is fine, it’s stable. There is no shrinkage, but no new tumours."

She described Ms Mhic Mhathúna's death as "too close to the bone".

Emma Mhic Mhathúna and her children met President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina earlier this year
Emma Mhic Mhathúna and her children met President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina earlier this year

"Emma died on Sunday morning. There was another lady who didn’t go public [about her cancer] and she died on Saturday morning. It's too close to the bone for me at the moment.

"I had been working with them to get them on to this drug I’m on but it was too late for them," she continued.

CALM: Emma Mhic Mhathuna at the Laughter Lounge. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
CALM: Emma Mhic Mhathuna at the Laughter Lounge. Picture: Kyran O'Brien

"The brilliant thing about the drug is the quality of life with it. I am living my life as if I haven’t got cancer.

"With chemo or radiation, I couldn’t get out of bed. My son would come back from montessori everyday and ask is mammy still in bed. You just want to do normal things.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Picture: Collins
Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Picture: Collins

"This drug is a game changer."

Ms Mhic Mhathúna fought very hard to secure the financial future of her children - who range in age from two to 16 years - and received a settlement of €7.5m in June from Quest laboratories and the State after she was given incorrect smear test results.

"She was doing it for her children," said Ms Phelan. "It was all about providing for them. She did whatever it took to get the money to provide for her children when she was gone.

"A fitting legacy for Emma is to get accountability. At the moment the only way we can get it is by improving the screening process we have to make it fit for purpose ... to make it one Emma would be proud of.

"Accountability has not really happened, we need to introduce measures to make that happen."

Ms Mhic Mhathúna was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016 having previously received two incorrect smear results.

Tributes poured in from around the country following the news of her death yesterday.

The mother of five children was praised for the courage and strength that she showed during the course of her devastating illness.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he was "very sad" to hear of her passing.

"Sadness has come across the entire country. We are so devastated to hear about her passing. My thoughts are with her children," he said.

Mr Harris said that Ms Mhic Mhathúna's bravery was "unbelievable" and that he would work tirelessly to improve the cancer-screening programme.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also extended his condolences to the family and friends of Ms Mhic Mhathúna.

He said: "I extend my heartfelt sympathy to Emma's family and friends and especially her children. Emma did us all a huge service with her advocacy for the HPV vaccine.

"I am determined that something positive should come from this tragedy and it is my objective to virtually eliminate cervical cancer in Ireland."

President Michael D Higgins said he was in awe of Ms Mhic Mhathúna's strength.

He said: "When I met her and her children in May, I was greatly struck by her poise and bravery in the midst of what was a very difficult time for her family and friends.

"On behalf of the people of Ireland, I send my condolences to her family, friends, the wider community in west Kerry and to all those who have shared Ms Mhic Mhathúna's journey as she battled the disease."

Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died from cervical cancer, told the Irish Independent that Ms Mhic Mhathúna's children would grow up knowing she loved them more than anything else.

He added: "She made an incredible difference and I know that Emma has left a remarkable legacy that her children will cherish throughout their lives."

Emma Mhic Mhathuna's Funeral Mass will take place on Tuesday at 11am in Seipeal na Carraige, Baile na nGall with removal to St. Mary's Pro Cathereral, Dublin for Funeral Mass on Wednesday at 12.4pm followed by burial in Laraghbryan Cemetery, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

 

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