Emma Mhic Mhathúna: The cancer has spread to my brain. I’m not scared, just heartbroken

Magnificently heroic despite a savage prognosis, Emma Mhic Mhathúna, victim of mis-read smear tests, has revealed that her cancer has spread to her brain.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Picture: Dan Linehan

“Found out today the cancer has spread to my brain, I’m not scared just heartbroken. I love my life, my children and all of you my new found friends,” Ms Mhic Mhathúna, aged 37, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

Despite staring down the barrel of seizures and loss of speech and concentration, she somehow found the strength to break this news gently to her children, telling them “they might be delighted that there comes a day when mammy won’t be talking”.

The €7.5m settlement reached last week after Ms Mhic Mhathúna and her five children successfully sued the HSE and a US laboratory for her mis-read smears could not alter her personal situation, but it did mean her children’s financial futures were secure. In an interview on RTÉ radio’s Today with Miriam show, Ms Mhic Mhathúna said: “The €7.5m doesn’t make any difference to me.

Like, I just went in there [to court] and I wasn’t taking any nonsense because I wanted my children taken care of. Every mouthguard, every football boot adds up. But when you divide it down into four boys and one girl…

Ms Mhic Mhathúna, who lives in Co Kerry, has consistently prioritised her children over her fears. She is currently in the Royal Marsden, an English hospital dedicated to cancer care, but is not on a treatment regime. She said her Crohn’s disease (inflammatory disease of the bowel) narrows her treatment options.

“Because I don’t have treatment, my tumours have got significantly bigger,” she said.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna had previously been told her cancer had spread to both lungs and her spine.

She said she was not scared of dying but that she was struggling with the uncertainty of the disease.

“I don’t like the unpredictability and I don’t like how quick it’s going. It’s just I have no control over it, in some ways I wish it was all over,” she said.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna is one of the now 221 women with cervical cancer found to have received incorrect smear tests during a clinical audit of past tests by the CervicalCheck screening programme after their cancer diagnoses.

She said she hopes positive changes are made in the way smear tests are conducted “because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone”.


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