Delayed diagnosis: Mum of five says If I had got the right results...I wouldn’t be where I am now

A mother-of-five who experienced a delayed cervical cancer diagnosis has spoken of her experience after her case was uncovered as part of a recent HSE review.

Speaking to Raidió na Gaeltachta, Emma Mhic Mhathúna said that she has had smear tests every three years since the birth of her daughter, 15, and up until 2016 all the results came back normal.

“The nurse called me and said that something was showing up in the smear, and that I needed to go to the hospital ... On September 20, 2016 I got a biopsy done, but the doctor said to me straight out there and then that he didn’t need to wait to get the test results back, you have cancer and we have to act quickly, I’m ordering an MRI for you.

"That was Wednesday, and on Monday I got the MRI and the doctor told me I had stage 2B cervical cancer.”

“I was saying to myself, how did things get so bad ... and I had the letter from (the smear in) 2013 to say everything was fine.”

Emma Mhic Mhathúna

“Every four months I have an appointment with the hospital to check that everything is ok. On April 4 I was there, and I had the kids with me because we have a game, when I get the all-clear I buy a helium balloon in a shop in Cork and we have a little party... when there’s cancer in the house, the children are always worrying if everything is ok ...”

“On April 15, that’s a fortnight ago, I knew there was something wrong with my body again. I went to the doctor and he found something that was more than 1 cm there ... I was at the hospital last week and had to get a biopsy done yesterday."

Her health concerns are so great that she has asked her younger son's primary school to let him make his confirmation early.

"Everything is up in the air now ... Séamus is making his confirmation next Tuesday, and I’m very worried about everything, so I asked the church and the school if Mario can make his confirmation as well.

"He’s in fourth class. It’s good for me that they can both do it together. I had new clothes bought for them anyway.”

When news broke that there were a number of misdiagnoses with cervical checks, she received a phone call from her doctor with the bad news.

“Last Sunday, my doctor in Dublin called. He said that he hoped I was reading the stories in the paper about the Cervical Check. He said he didn’t have all my files in front of him, but that I was one of the women involved.

"I asked him to call Cork and to tell them to take good care of me.”

“The doctor told me that the smear results I got in 2013 were wrong … the first indications of cancer, the cells changing in the body, were there.”

“I’ve an appointment with my doctor today because my head is spinning. I’m still going round in shock, is it true?

"In 2004, I got a knock on my door to tell me my mother was dead. It was unbelievable, she was 44. I was 23 at that time, and on my own. It’s like that again. I’m waiting to open my eyes and to be back in my bed and that this is not true.

“If I had got the right results at that time, I wouldn’t be where I am now … I had a kidney infection in January, I have a lung infection now. My life, well, I’m not too worried about my life, but the kids are very very young.

“There wasn’t enough uptake on the HPV vaccine. After what I’d gone through ... I said I’d have to take a stand and help people."

Emma Mhic Mhathúna was interviewed today on An Saol ó Dheas on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.


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