Cancer victim's dying wish: ‘Give our daughter Ali the life she deserves’

Cancer victim's dying wish: ‘Give our daughter Ali the life she deserves’
Paul Dingivan and his wife Julie, who passed away in 2017

By Joe Leogue

A man whose wife died in April 2017 after a cancer misdiagnosis has recalled her last days and outlined how difficult he found being told she was wrongly given the all-clear from a smear test.

Paul Dingivan yesterday said be briefly considered taking his own life when he was told his wife Julie was going to die.

An audit of the CervicalCheck screening programme found 208 women who would later be diagnosed with cervical cancer were originally given an incorrect all-clear result following a smear test.

Of those, 162 were not told about the audit results.

Last May, Patrick Lynch, chairman of the HSE Serious Incident Management Team, revealed that 17 of the women had died.

Mr Dingivan, whose wife was one of those 17 women who died, yesterday recalled his experience.

In May, he had called the Neil Prendeville Show for information, having heard a discussion on the case involving Vicky Phelan, who took the State to the High Court and received a settlement over her misdiagnosis.

He was waiting on a call back from the show when he received a call from Julie’s doctor seeking a meeting, at which he was told of Julie’s misdiagnosis.

I found that extremely hard, to be brought into the same room that Julie initially went into to be told that she had cancer the first time, to be brought into that same room, to be told then that a mistake had been made,” Mr Dingivan told the Neil Prendeville Show yesterday.

Julie was wrongly given the all clear from a smear test in 2009, but she bled heavily during another 2013 examination and was sent for a biopsy which confirmed she had cancer.

“She never felt sorry for herself,” he said of Julie’s attitude to treatment. “If something didn’t work, it was: ‘OK, so what’s the next step now, what do we do?’

“She always just wanted an answer, what do we do next and she was always up for the fight.”

The couple have a daughter Ali, born in 2011, and a child each from previous relationships.

Paul Dingivan and his daughter Ali
Paul Dingivan and his daughter Ali

It was when Julie went for a hysterectomy that she discovered she was pregnant with their second child — which was lost due to her treatment.

Despite the initial all-clear, Julie’s cancer returned in 2014 when the couple were planning their wedding, which they went ahead with in Spain while Julie was having bouts of chemotherapy treatment.

Paul said: “We were being told by the doctors ‘you’re young, you’re healthy, we’ve caught this early’, which we all know now that they didn’t catch it early, but that’s what we were always being told. ‘You’ve a great chance, we’re not looking to treat this Julie, we’re looking to get rid of this for you, we caught it early;’ that’s what we were being told.

When the cancer returned in 2015, Julie went to the Beacon Hospital for targeted radiotherapy.

Eventually, Julie went to Marymount Hospice to treat her pain, where Paul received the news he feared.

“They said they’d like to sit down with me, with Julie’s family, with any of Julie’s friends and whoever we wanted to be there,” he said. “So we all sat around and they just said ‘does anyone have questions you want to ask about it?’ and I asked is she going to die and they said she was, they gave her about a week to live.

“I didn’t want it to be, but I kinda knew that’s what was coming. That’s where we were going with it.

“I tried to have the talk with Julie, but she said she didn’t want to know how long; when she did wake up she got upset when I tried to talk to her, she said: ‘I don’t want to know how long I have left with my children — just leave me to enjoy it.:

“She cried and then she snapped out of it straight away and she sat down then with her sister and my daughter and a few other friends and she picked out what kind of communion dress she wanted Ali to wear, what way she wanted her hair done; stuff like that.”

Paul said he struggled with the disclosure by the hospital and left Marymount, considering taking his own life. A call from Julie convinced him to return and they spoke about the future.

She kept saying: ‘Whatever you do, stay at work and make sure you can give Ali the life she deserves,’ ” said Paul.

Paul also recalled when his wife passed away.

“I laid on the bed with Julie and I fell asleep with my arms around her,” he said. “I woke up with a nurse and my daughter Jasmine in the room, and she said ‘Julie’s gone, she’s stopped breathing’.

“I was talking to her for a while even though she was asleep. I told her to go if she wanted to, don’t keep fighting. They woke me then to tell me she was gone.”

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