Husband of late Emma Hannigan vows to keep promise to educate women about breast cancer

By Sarah Slater

The husband and close friend of the late award-winning author Emma Hannigan have vowed to keep a promise they made to educate and empower women after breast cancer surgery.

The popular novelist who had 14 novels published died on March 3 following a very public 11 year battle with breast cancer.

The Wicklow native’s heart wrenching social media post, on February 16 last, that she was losing her cancer battle, saw an outpouring of emotion from thousands of Irish sufferers, reading fans and authors both nationally and internationally.

Her husband Cian McGrath, has posted on the Mum of two’s official Facebook page saying, “I received (a message) from a lovely lady called Deborah Fernandes, Deborah is one of the special people that helped Emma battle cancer and to recovery over the years.

“Emma made her promise to educating and empowering women after breast cancer surgery and now she is fulfilling her promise. Please…. help if you can.”

Emma’s final novel, The Gift of Friends, written in the months prior to her death, is to be published next February according to Hachette Books Ireland.

Her friend of 10 years, Ms Fernandes, who helped Emma battle for so long with the help of physiotherapy, against cancer posted: “Her last message to me was a message of kindness to myself. She wrote that life is too short, not to be so hard with myself and to live life to the fullest. I promised Emma that I would be sharing, educating and empowering women after breast cancer surgery.

“Emma Hannigan, (was) a brave and unbelievable woman (as are) all our pink warriors.” Ms Fernandes appealed to the public to continue to donate much needed funds to donations to Breast Cancer Irelands support others.”

In 2005, Emma, who was an ambassador for the cancer charity, discovered that she was carrying the Brca 1 cancer gene. This meant she had an 85 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and a 50 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer.

To reduce her risk to five per cent, the brave Mum opted for preventative surgery. In 2006 Emma had a double mastectomy and had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

However, in 2007, in spite of the surgery, she was diagnosed with cancer for the first time and her lengthy battle ensued.

Ms Fernandes added: “Emma Hannigan was one of the most inspiring, loving and caring human beings that I have ever met. Her kindness to others, her wicked sense of humour and her zest for life, were for me some of her key features. Her husband, children, her parents and her dog Herbie were everything for Emma.

She loved her family so much it transpired every time she talked about them. That love kept her going and fuelled her quest to beat cancer multiple times with the help of her fantastic medical team.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Emma almost ten years ago when she started attending Manual Lymphatic Drainage treatment for her arm Lymphoedema. She had just been cleared from her third cancer and unfortunately the following one had already settled in.

“Over the years she fought and defeated cancer for a total of nine times. As she would have said it: ‘Emma 9 - Cancer 0.’

“This 10th time was different. And even though she announced in her social media that the end was near, Emma being as kind as only Emma could be, she leaves us all, family, friends and followers with a message of hope and love.

“Like a brave warrior, she fought each battle with strength, determination and humour always with a positive attitude. Along the way she found writing as a passion and turned it into her main profession giving us, her readers, the gift of wonderful novels with a message of hope, love, fun, and some happy tears.

“Besides her books, she would tease us with her yummy bakery skills, but she was also an advocate for breast cancer prevention becoming a Breast Cancer Ireland Ambassador.

“From fundraising to help finding a cure for cancer, to actively promoting awareness and helping many women in Ireland that were going through the same experience, Emma shared her story and her journey with all of us.

“She educated and promoted awareness about lymphoedema too. I know all my post-breast cancer and lymphoedema patients are going through the same pain of losing Emma. She was our Emma. Through her books, blog, interviews and TV shows, she gave us hope, she cheered us up and she made us laugh. ‘At the end all it matters is love, she said.’

“(I) have a funny feeling though, that heaven just hosted a pink glittery party for her recent birthday not forgetting the high heels in the kingdom of little fairies, robins, unicorns and angels.”

Emma appealed to the public to donate to the charity in a bid to raise €100,000 two weeks prior to her death, more than €126,000 was reached due to public donations within 10 days.

Her book, Letters to My Daughters, hit the number one spot across several categories on the best selling chart within days of her revealing that she was losing her fight against cancer.