Court battle ends for Ruth Morrissey: "I am not frightened to die, but I don’t want to"

Ruth Morrissey, who was today awarded a total of €2.1m by the High Court in her landmark action, never craved the limelight, she had everything she could wish for at home.

Court battle ends for Ruth Morrissey:  "I am not frightened to die, but I don’t want to"

Ruth Morrissey, who was today awarded a total of €2.1m by the High Court in her landmark action, never craved the limelight, she had everything she could wish for at home.

She and her husband Paul had a simple and enviable life. They met when she was 19 years of age and she was 17 years old and got married 11 years ago.

They love each other deeply. She calls him "my rock". He calls her "my best friend". They have a beautiful daughter, Libby, who is the light of their lives.

Ruth was forging ahead in her career and was studying for a degree. The couple worked hard, but treasured family time together.

The Morrissey family was a happy team with the backing of extended family all around them in Monaleen, CoLimerick.

But their idyllic life came crashing down around them when Ruth was diagnosed with cervical cancer five years ago and their battle against the merciless disease began. She has also had to deal with breast cancer.

Just last year the 37-year old mother was given the news her cervical cancer had come back and this time, there was little that could be done as it was inoperable and terminal.

Ruth, who may only have between one to two years to live, said the news of her prognosis was devastating.

"You have to dig really deep. You are not going to be the same person. I am not frightened to die, but I don’t want to," she told the High Court at the start of her long-running action last July.

But it was when she saw another Limerick woman, Vicky Phelan, talking on television about her cervical cancer case - the first to come before the High Court and which was settled for €2.5m - that Ruth had a strange feeling. She later rang the CervicalCheck helpline numbers set up for women worried as the controversy continued.

Ruth told the High Court that her heart sank when her phone rang and the nurse at the other end of the call broke down as she told her she was one of the women whose smear tests had been the subject of review.

The young mother wept in the witness box in the Four Courts last July as she told of telling her daughter, Libby who was then just seven years of age, of her cancer diagnosis.

"It is probably the most difficult conversation I had to have. She did not want Mammy to pass away. She asked would she have to live with somebody else," she told Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

She said she told Libby she could not promise she would not pass away, but she made a promise she would fight as hard as she could.

The cancer diagnosis also trampled on Ruth and Paul's plans for a big family. When Ruth heard that the cervical cancer had returned last year she was devastated.

"I was taken aback. I said I had a little girl at home and I wanted to be there for her," she told the court.

She added: "You just try to carry yourself through."

Chemotherapy, she said, is like a freight train hitting you and she has now completed her sixth cycle.

She said she will "try to cram weeks of my life into one or two days" when she is over the effects of the chemotherapy.

In relation to her breast cancer, she said she has decided to have a double mastectomy as "I am not taking any chances" but that the breast cancer could not be treated until she had completed the treatment for the cervical cancer.

When he got into the witness box, Paul Morrissey spoke with emotion of his wife whom he called his best friend and he outlined his devastation and heartbreak that Ruth is not going to see her daughter grow up.

He broke down as he told how at bedtime he has heard his daughter Libby ask her mother not to die.

"You hear her at bedtime say 'Mammy, don’t die, don’t leave me'. It is devastating," he said.

He told the court that he and his wife do everything together.

He said that Ruth has been given a death sentence and that he feels anxious and completely stressed all the time.

‘My wife should not be in this situation. She is beautiful inside and outside," he said.

He told the judge that but for the media and publicity around CervicalCheck smears, they would not have found out what happened: "I am devastated to think Ruth is not going to see her daughter make her communion, confirmation and marry, it is soul destroying and heartbreaking.”

Ruth Morrissey, who was brave enough to walk into court, her head bare after losing her hair to chemotherapy, sobbed as she heard her husband talk of his heartbreak.

When she returned to the witness stand in the Four Courts last January, Ms Morrissey told the court she had asked about surgery after her cervical cancer recurred last year and she had undergone radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment, but she has been told it is not possible.

It is tough at home. With so much radiotherapy and chemotherapy - we thought I had a chance of getting through.

Her husband told how it has been extremely tough for his family and said it is like there is a dark cloud over them: "It is like a bad dream you can't wake up from. Just imagine if it was your wife, the love of your life, it seems to be one thing after another. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and unimaginable."

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