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Brave Emma in line for top book award after battling cancer eight times

AN author who has battled cancer eight times has been nominated for a top literary award.

Inspirational Emma Hannigan (37) is hoping to celebrate her latest round of chemotherapy with a prized gong for her latest work.

Emma is going head-to-head with Cecelia Ahern and Patricia Scanlan in this year's Irish Book Awards and is delighted with her nomination.

"I don't expect to win, I'll fall in a heap on the floor if I do," Emma, who has had cancer a staggering eight times, told the Herald.

"I'm just so thrilled to be nominated, I see myself as a newbie and to make it into a category with people I'm a fan of, like Sheila Flanagan, is huge for me.

"Writing is very solitary so to have recognition is amazing -- it's gotten me through everything."

Emma's offering The Pink Ladies Club has been shortlisted for the Eason Irish Popular Fiction Book of the Year category and is the Wicklow woman's fourth book. The story follows three women fighting cancer at different stages in their lives.

"It definitely mirrors by own experience," said Emma, who began writing while she received treatment for the first bout of cancer in 2007.

"It was completely and utterly my therapy, it helped to get everything out but was also an escape for me."

Emma has battled breast cancer eight times in just four years.

She was diagnosed with the first bout of the disease in June 2007.

In March 2008 she was diagnosed for the second time, followed by a third in October 2009.



mastectomy

In 2010, Emma was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, which invaded her lymph nodes, on four occasions.

The most recent diagnosis -- her eighth -- was earlier this year and she has just had more chemotherapy.

The mum-of-two penned her debut novel Misconceived while she passed the time during her lengthy hospital visits. "It was really to occupy my mind and I was still working in engineering when I began. But I caught the bug and couldn't stop, I love it."

In 2005, Emma discovered she was a carrier of cancer gene BRCA1.

A year later, she underwent a double mastectomy and had her ovaries removed as a precaution.

However, in 2007, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32.

"I had pre-emptive surgery, but that did not stop the disease."

Now having just finished her latest round of chemotherapy, Emma and her family are celebrating her nomination on a short holiday in Co Wexford, while her children Sacha (11) and Kim (10) enjoy their midterm break.

And the nominee still considers herself "lucky" despite her ordeal, which has also seen her sport changing looks over the past five years.

"I've lost my hair twice -- I started out as a straight-haired blonde, but after it fell out the first time it came back black and curly."

"But it has gradually gotten straighter and is now a healthy blonde, thanks to my local hairdressers," she laughed.

"This time around I actually availed of a cold cap, which is a special helmet that freezes all your hair follicles.

"It's fantastic, but you're bloody freezing afterwards."

Emma's mantra is positivity and humour has helped her cope.

"Of course cancer can be depressing, but with the Pink Ladies Club I wanted to the show it can be funny.

"I have a wicked sense of humour and you need that, laughs can come out of darkness." The winners of the will be revealed on November 17.

hnews@herald.ie


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