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Emma Hannigan: breast cancer survivor and an inspiration


It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as you probably know.

I was wondering how to mark and promote the event, when a press release came through from the book publisher, Headline. And I just had to share it, as it’s a real inspiration.

Emma Hannigan is an author of women’s fiction who lives in Ireland. But what her readers probably don’t realise is that she has been fighting a colossal battle with breast cancer, having now beaten the disease nine times. No, that’s not a typo. Nine times.

In August 2005 Emma discovered she was carrying the potentially deadly cancer carrying BrCa 1. She made the decision to have a mastectomy (or both breasts removed) and a bi-lateral oopherectomy (or both ovaries removed) to reduce her risk of developing the disease.

Despite that, in 2007 Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer in the neck, shoulder and under her arm along with an auto-immune disease. She fought the disease, and thought she’d won, but a year later it came back, this time as another tumour under her left arm. This pattern repeated itself as she suffered tumours throughout her body, by June 2011 she was diagnosed for the eighth time.

After years of treatments, she was finally told in 2011 that she was in remission.

“If you or someone you love has just been diagnosed with cancer, have hope,” she says. “Take heart in the fact that I am still here, still living life and loving it! I can’t change whether or not I get cancer again, but I promise you one thing – I can damn well chose how I deal with it. So wig on, chin up and remember, nothing can banish a smile from your face unless you allow it. I hope you are all living life to the full and making the most of the good times, while riding the storm during the tough times.’

Emma – a mother of two –  lives in Bray, Ireland. She has published eight novels as well as a memoir, Talk to the Headscarf, which charts her journey through cancer.

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