“I’m dying. I don’t even know if my little baby is going to remember me.” These were the words of mother-of-five Emma Mhic Mhathúna yesterday.
Emma, 37, raising her young children alone in west Kerry, has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer having been incorrectly given the all-clear after a cervical smear test in 2013.
“I’m dying when I don’t need to die and my children are going to be without me and I’m going to be without them. I tried to do everything right, you know, breastfeeding and being a full-time mum and sacrificing my own life for them and I didn’t see it as a sacrifice and now I’m going to miss out and I don’t even know if my little baby is going to remember me,” she added.
Last week, Emma discovered she was one of the 209 women who was given incorrect smear test results.
In 2016, she found out she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and this week she found out that her diagnosis is terminal.
“I found out this week that I’m dying, that the cancer has gone up into my bones and everything, so I have a test on Friday (today) to see exactly how long I’ve left.
Emma then described telling her children the news, the eldest of which is just 15, and for whom she is now trying to find a home.
“It was the hardest thing I ever had to do because as a mother it’s my job to protect them and to keep the bad news away from them. We had such a good day on the confirmation (two of her sons had their confirmation last Tuesday).
“My results were ready on Tuesday but I didn’t want to get them because of the confirmation.
“Then I had to collect them from school early (on Wednesday) and tell them that I’m dying and it’s just a horrible thing, to be honest, there is so much pain in the house,” she said.
Emma painted an idyllic picture of her family’s life by the beach in Ballydavid and how much fun her and her five children have together.
She said no amount of money could replace what they have.
“Last night, I was in bed and I was having a dream, a really bad dream. I dreamt that I was dying last night and I wasn’t ready because I hadn’t said goodbye to my children and, in my dream, I was trying to ring 999 but I couldn’t pick up the phone.
“So, in my dream, I had gone into Natasha, she sleeps across the landing and I was trying to wake her up so I could say goodbye to her because I hadn’t said goodbye. Then I woke up and I said: ‘thank God I haven’t died yet because I want to say goodbye to them and this isn’t fair’.
“We have such good fun the six of us. And I moved all the way down here to Ballydavid because it’s such a fantastic place and it’s really like Enid Blyton down here; they go climbing on the rocks and they go camping in the fields and they’re so safe, and they build sandcastles, and that’s all being taken away from them,” she said.
Emma and her daughter were the faces of a HSE video advert last year encouraging young girls to get the HPV vaccine which prevents cervical cancer.
Yesterday afternoon, she gave a subsequent interview to RTÉ’s Raidió na Gaeltachta where she described the “hard job” of keeping the five siblings together after her death.
“I sat down and told them I was dying. Oisín, he’s six years of age, he asked if I’d be coming back. ‘Don’t go anywhere Mammy, do you not love me?’ He doesn’t understand.
“I had to ask them the awful question — do you want to be kept together. I have a very hard job now because I have five children and my father lives in England. It’s hard to find a good family for one child, but for five,” Emma said.
Emma said the Government needs “to go” as they are not “capable of minding us”.
“The only person that can do something now is the President and I never thought I’d actually say something like that in a country in 2018, in Ireland, because the Government needs to go.
They’re not — and I’m not being insulting, it’s genuine — actually capable of minding us and that is their job, to make sure that we’re ok.
“I’m dying and I didn’t even need to die and I’m only 37,” she said.
President Michael D Higgins has agreed to meet with Emma next week.
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