My mother went to her doctor... that is why she’s alive today
ONE of the 209 women affected by cervical cancer crisis took part in a demonstration outside the Dáil yesterday as she revealed a 2012 smear test had wrongly given her the all-clear.
Margaret Murray was flanked by her daughter Debbie English, her young grandson and friends, as they joined a group of independent councillors who came out to ‘support Vicky Phelan and the hundreds of women who may be affected’ by the scandal.
The 66-year-old mother-of-three told the Irish Daily Mail she was only recently told by doctors of the false negative test result she received in 2012. While she said she is one of the ‘lucky’ ones, the grandmother won’t sit back because she’s ‘okay’.
In 2011, Margaret had a smear test that showed low grade abnormalities. Six months later, in 2012, she returned for a smear test that was told was negative.
But, seven months later, in January 2013, she visited her GP, who thought something was amiss. After further testing, the Co. Louth woman was diagnosed with cervical cancer and underwent a full hysterectomy.
Her daughter said she had realised something was wrong which was why she returned to her GP seven months after a negative smear test. She said: ‘You know your own body. And luckily enough her doctor was persistent and he checked and he said he wasn’t happy either.’
Margaret said she met a doctor in 2013 and was told she had a ‘very low grade cervical cancer’.
Debbie said that in 2013 she was taken to St James’s hospital for her hysterectomy.
However, Debbie believes all that could have possibly been avoided because two weeks ago the family received news that the smear test in 2012 wasn’t clear and should have revealed high grade abnormalities. An audit revealed this in 2016 but they were never told.
Margaret has had a number of smear tests since, which have been clear, but she and her family are concerned about their accuracy. She wants a full MRI to rule out the possibility that the cancer may have spread. ‘They phoned us first in Dundalk and we went to have a meeting with them in Dundalk,’ Debbie explained. ‘And in that meeting they explained that the 2012 smear was negative. But it should’ve been a high grade.’
Margaret said she has had four smears since, ‘and they are negative, but how do we know they are negative?’ The family has asked if they can trust that every smear since has been ‘100% negative’ but medics said they ‘can’t give us a definite answer’.
Debbie added: ‘They said it’s all up in the air, that, basically, an expert team will come in and they will review each of the 209 cases individually and they will assess how much the cancer could have spread, what could have been done, maybe, at that point, the fact that it wasn’t diagnosed in time.’
She said they were told that each case would be looked at individually.
They are ‘looking for the truth and to know what happened’, as well as ‘who’s accountable’.
‘Why women had to die for. It’s disgraceful,’ Margaret added. ‘It’s absolutely disgraceful.’
She said the last two weeks have been difficult at times.
‘Well you go through very bad stages and you think “oh my God almighty, this could be anyone, this could be anybody, I’ve two daughters, it could be my daughter,’ she added.
Debbie said that after her mother had her test she was told not to go back for another three years so if she hadn’t gone to her doctor, ‘she wouldn’t be here today’.
‘On the scale of it all, my Mam’s very lucky because there are people that are a lot worse off, they’ve died,’ she said. Margaret said she has not sought any legal advice, as her ‘health is more important’.
She felt compelled to join the group at Leinster House yesterday because, ‘it’s not going to be the type of thing that “I’m okay, and to hell with everyone else”’.’
She was joined by Sharon Keogan, a councillor from Duleek, who was one of the organisers of yesterday’s event. And they were supported by Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell who met them at the gates.
‘Each day it’s getting worse with regard to the numbers that
‘I’m okay but I’m here in support’ ‘Women have to stand up’
are coming out,’ Ms Keogan told the Mail. ‘We have to do something; the women of Ireland have to stand up. We have to seek accountability.
‘Somebody knew something, and those that knew and concealed it – wilfully concealed it, and kept it from women – need to be held to account. And that is why we are here today.’
A spokesperson for the HSE last night said that they cannot ‘comment on individual cases at this stage’.
Solidarity: Margaret Murray and daughter Debbie English