Wednesday 24 July 2019

Writer wants to begin new chapter after 8th cancer battle

Emma Hannigan, right, with celebrity chef Rachel Allen at the Irish Book Awards last month. Photo: David Conachy
Emma Hannigan, right, with celebrity chef Rachel Allen at the Irish Book Awards last month. Photo: David Conachy

Nick Bramhill

AN Irish writer is praying she can move on to the next chapter in her life story, having just beaten cancer for the eighth time.

Courageous Emma Hannigan has successfully fought off breast cancer on eight different occasions since 2007.

Doctors are baffled as to why the cancer keeps returning and say her case is highly unusual.

The longest unbroken period that the unlucky married mother of two has gone without being diagnosed with the disease is just six months in the past four years.

She has spent the bulk of that time in intensive chemotherapy, as doctors struggled to find an explanation as to why the illness kept reappearing just months after she'd been given the all-clear.

But yesterday the exhausted 39-year-old author, from Bray, Co Wicklow, said she was praying the remaining chapters in her life would be cancer-free, having just been informed she's in remission once again and that her scans are clear.

"The latest bout I had was probably the most spread-out of all the cancers. It was all around my neck, ears and head and I had 14 tumours. It really had a good go-around the place this time and I had seven months of chemotherapy after I was diagnosed back in May.

"Every time I beat it I don't expect it to return and my doctors are mystified as to why it keeps coming back, because it's not usual," said Ms Hannigan, whose fifth book, 'Unconditional Love', is due to be published next summer.

In 2005, Ms Hannigan learned that she had the hereditary BrCa1 gene. Carriers of the gene have an 85pc chance of developing breast cancer and a 50pc chance of developing ovarian cancer.

There is a history of breast cancer in her mother's side of the family, with three out of eight women developing the disease.

The national centre for genetic testing in Crumlin, Dublin, approached one of Ms Hannigan's aunts and offered to have the wider family tested.

On learning that she had the gene, Ms Hannigan took the radical step of undergoing a double mastectomy and also had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in a bid to protect her against any future cancer.


However, that could not prevent the onset of the killer disease, which was first diagnosed in June 2007 by specialists at Blackrock Clinic in Dublin.

The intensive chemo and the subsequent all-clears that followed would become an all-too-familiar pattern of her life thereafter, as she was diagnosed again in 2008 and the year after, and no less than four times last year.

But the brave Ms Hannigan, who rose to prominence with her novels 'Designer Genes', 'Miss Conceived' and 'The Pink Ladies Club', said: "I hope to God never to have to deal with it again.

"This last bout was tough. But I feel great and it's so timely to have got the all-clear with Christmas round the corner."

Irish Independent

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