Still Here

In May 2005, Emma Hannigan found out that she was carrying an inherited gene that predisposed her to cancer. This gene, known as BRCA1, meant that Emma had an 85% chance of developing breast cancer and a 50% chance of developing ovarian cancer.  Emma (32) and with two young children, decided to change her destiny by undergoing extensive preventative surgery. She opted to have a double prophylactic mastectomy (removal of both breasts) and also a bilateral prophylactic oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) with removal of both fallopian tubes. The surgery reduced Emma’s risk of developing cancer to 5% but it was a gruelling year. There wasn’t just the pain to cope with, there were also the body changes, the loss of fertility and an early menopause. Emma subsequently underwent breast reconstruction but sadly, went on to develop breast cancer under her arm and in her neck. She has recently finished undergoing chemotherapy for a second recurrence. Emma has been through a great deal but as she says herself  “I’m STILL HERE”.

designer genesI’ve just finished reading Emma’s debut novel Designer Genes (Poolbeg) which is based on her own life story although the characters in it are fictional. The bookshop Hughes & Hughes made it book of the month for April and are giving €1 for every book sold to St. Vincent’s Cancer Research Trust.

Emma told her story on The Tubridy Show and I was completely bowled over by it. Her battle for survival is remarkable in itself but it was the combination of her humour and resilience in the face of adversity, which really caught my attention. Strange as it may seem, there’s an awful lot of humour in sickness.

You can listen to Emma’s interview with Ryan Tubridy here (fast forward 7 mins).

For information on cancer visit or call The Action Breast Cancer Helpline on 1800 30 90 40.

6 Responses to Still Here

  1. Annb says:

    What a thrill and see a new Biopsy Report! – how apt that your should write of a kindred spirit someone, who like you, has shown ‘tremdous humour and resilience in the face of adversity’. Long may you shine.

  2. Baino says:

    Long may you shine indeed Steph. I will NEVER complain about my sore knee again! Good to see you back.

  3. Steph says:

    Ann and Baino – You’re too kind! Never mind me, Emma’s the one with the real problems.

    I worked as part of a genetic oncology team once upon a time and met families just like Emma’s. Genetic testing raises all sorts of issues and the long wait for results can be cruel. And that’s only the start of the journey. The men don’t escape either as there is also an inherited gene for testicular cancer. I’m sure there’s been many changes since my short time in the field.

    As regards me, I’m back on my feet but still struggling with the damned colitis. I’ve two specialist appointments coming up in the next 10 days and I’m hoping they will shed a little light on the situation. In the meantime, life goes on albeit at a slower pace!

  4. JBBC says:

    Hi Steph – good to have you back! Thanks for posting this – I missed the interview on Tubridy so it’s great to get the link. I have just finished reading a similar book, “Pretty is what changes”, about another young woman and her struggles upon discovering she tests positive for the BRCA gene. Like Emma, she faced a choice between testing and monitoring for signs of cancer or undergoing a double mastectomy and possibly removal of her ovaries to give herself the best chance of not developing cancer. More and more women are choosing the radical option in the hope that they will beat the odds against cancer but as you point out, it raises a lot of physical and emotional issues for younger women.

  5. […] to Steph at the Biopsy Report for directing me to a new book which has recently been […]

  6. […] thanks to Steph, who posted a link, listened to the full interview. Steph also reviewed the book here. It was also reviewed […]

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