Emma Ní Mhathúna (top) was among a number of women asked by the HSE to promote its HPV vaccine programme in a video posted on YouTube last August.
Emma, a mother-of five, had recently been diagnosed with cervical cancer and urged parents to make sure their daughters took up the vaccination.
However, while filming, Emma was unaware that she had had a delayed cervical cancer diagnosis that went back to 2013 – four years before before the HSE asked Emma to participate in the video
In an interview on Raidió na Gaeltachta‘s An Saol ó Dheas, Emma told host Helen Ní Shé that she had had smear tests every three years since the birth of her daughter Natasha, 15, and that all the results had come back as normal until 2016.
Emma, living in County Kerry said:
The nurse called me and said that something was showing up in the smear, and that I needed to go to the hospital … On 20 September 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 was treated at St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin. She moved to Kerry six months ago and is now under the care of University College Hospital, Cork.
“Every 4 months I have an appointment with the hospital to check that everything is ok. On the 4 April 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 …”
Although everything was clear in Cork in April, Emma explained to Helen that she hasn’t been feeling well recently and that she is now very worried.
“On 15 April, 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.
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 4th Class. It’s good for me that they can both do it together. I had new clothes bought for them anyway.”
On Sunday, Emma got a call from her doctor in Dublin.
“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.”
In a further phone call, Emma recalled:
“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.
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. ”
Of the HSE promotional video, Emma said:
“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. That video is on Youtube – that’s me and my daughter.”
Earlier: Simon’s Memo