Sunday 22 July 2018

Emma was 'the epitome of strength'

Author raised €100k for Breast Cancer Ireland in her final days

Emma Hannigan was laid to rest on Wednesday
Emma Hannigan was laid to rest on Wednesday

Mary Fogarty

Bray author Emma Hannigan had fought cancer for over a decade when she slipped away on Saturday, during a storm with which she shared a name.

Emma spent her last weeks urging her followers and fans to raise money for Breast Cancer Ireland, so her final gift to the world was more than €100,000 in donations. Her funeral takes place today (Wednesday) at 11.30 a.m. in Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Church, Foxrock, before burial at Shangannagh Cemetery.

The Bray woman fought cancer time and time again, while campaigning for funds and awareness for charities.

She has also penned 14 beautiful books since 2010, some memoir and some touching on her experience of cancer.

Emma's works of fiction and non-fiction drew many thousands of fans. The stories and characters she invented had heart, sincerity, hope, and strength.

'Today, my Emma found peace,' her husband Cian McGrath wrote last Saturday.

'She bravely fought a battle against a foe with no mercy. Emma was the epitome of strength, love and generosity, beyond anything I have ever known.

'She loved her family, loved her friends, and she left a trail of glitter and joy throughout her life - with of course added tinsel at Christmas.

'She was my wife and soul-mate, mother of my beautiful children, a friend to many and an inspiration to thousands. A loving daughter, devoted mother, best-selling author, fundraiser, public speaker, chef, and shopaholic.

'She was my guiding star and my hug to say everything would be ok. But mostly she was just my Emma, and I would need her wonderful gift with words to tell you just how much I will miss her.'

To be a successful author was Emma's dream job, she said in an interview with the Bray People in 2012. Three years prior to that, her debut novel Designer Genes was published.

In 2005, the busy mother and chef found out that she had a rare cancer-carrying gene BrCa1. She had an 85 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and a 50 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer. She opted to have her breasts and ovaries removed. Despite that, cancer struck in 2007 and launched an obstinate onslaught that continued for years. Bored in hospital, Emma put pen to paper and wrote Designer Genes, based on her own experiences.

'If I had never been ill, I may never have started writing books,' she said in 2012, during a period of remission.

She said then that it was the simple things in life that would bring her the most pleasure - like a sunny day in Bray, with Cian and their children. The couple had a whirlwind romance, and were engaged and married within a year of meeting.

Emma was utterly devoted to her family, her community, her readers, and her writing.

She took on the role of 'official ambassador to Bray' arising out of the town's pioneering Economic Think Tank, and she contributed tirelessly to fundraising and community projects.

She made the heartbreaking announcement two weeks prior to her death that her time was short. Dubray Books then said that they would donate the proceeds of her latest book 'Letters to My Daughter' to Breast Cancer Ireland. The book subsequently reached the top of the Irish book charts.

Emma also appealed for €4 text donations to the charity, by sending the word CURE to 50300.

'I promise it will help,' she said. 'Without new drugs I wouldn't have had the last 10 years with my family. Breast Cancer Ireland would be so grateful. I'm an ambassador for them but I haven't been able to do much.'

President Michael D Higgins is among the many people who have paid tribute to the author.

'Emma Hannigan leaves a lasting legacy not only through her work as a much-appreciated author but also through her exemplary courage in dealing with terminal illness,' he said. 'She will be remembered as a powerful advocate for Breast Cancer Ireland, a great cause worthy of all of our support. To her husband, Cian, her son, Sacha, and daughter, Kim, and to her wider family and circle of friends, Sabina and I send our deepest sympathies.'

Bray People