A MIDLETON woman who found out last month that she is one of the 209 women impacted by the cervical cancer screening scandal says she is still not getting full information from the HSE.
Carol Murray, a 33-year-old mother-of-two, has been in remission from her cancer for several years but still has regular check-ups and initially feared the worst when she was called in for a meeting with her consultant.
“Myself, my two sisters and my aunt all went up to the hospital together because I actually thought I was being diagnosed again,” she said.
“It brought everything back.
“We went in and the lady offered us a cup of tea and I really thought that was it.”
Instead, her doctor told her that a cervical smear test taken in 2010 had been read incorrectly.
At the time, she was told to come back in six months for a second test whereas in fact it should have been followed up immediately.
She immediately asked about the follow-up smear test, taken in January 2011, only to be told that the hospital can find no record of the second test.
“I feel that it is being kept from me, maybe because there is a mistake there too. I don’t know,” she said.
Carol was eventually diagnosed with cervical cancer in July 2011, more than 12 months after the initial test should have rung alarm bells.
By that stage her cancer had advanced and she required aggressive treatment with both chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
She counts herself as one of the lucky ones because she has been free from cancer for several years but is still living with the impacts of the illness and the treatment needed.
“I went through a lot of stress,” she said.
“I can’t have any more children. I do have two children, so I know I am lucky, but it is still a loss.
“I was 26 and started going through the menopause, was told I can’t have any more kids, it is still a big void.”
Before the current CervicalCheck controversy ever broke, there had been a number of issues relating to Carol’s treatment which led to legal proceedings in 2017.
As part of this, Carol’s file was shared with her legal team, which makes her even more frustrated that this is only coming to light now.
“The doctor said that in 2016 there was a letter that I was meant to receive at an appointment, but for some reason, it got lost in the file and I never got it,” she said.
“I had a settlement last year. If that letter was lost in my file as I was told in May, then I feel my legal team would have found it.
“That is the most upsetting part. I want my second smear, I want to see the results.”
Carol suffers from a neurological disorder exacerbated by stress and she has been badly affected by the news.
Since the meeting with her doctor on May 10, she had heard nothing from the HSE until she got a call on Thursday morning, advising her about a HSE support group and promising increased medical support.
“I have rung the CervicalCheck helpline twice but not received any phone call back,” she said.
The main support she has received has come from Standing 4 Women, the activist group set up in response to the scandal.
“Standing 4 Women have been brilliant. I heard about the group and contacted them to say I was one of the women,” Carol said.
“Someone from Dublin contacted me the following day, she was very nice and since that first contact, she has rung me nearly every day, asking if I need help. I met her in Dublin and it felt like I knew her all my life. They are very supportive.”
Although still highly distressed by the news of the misread and the missing scan, getting involved with the Standing 4 Women has given Carol renewed purpose.
Last week’s Dáil demonstration and supporting rallies nationwide is ‘only the beginning’.
“They are waiting to see the Government’s reaction and then we are going to be going on further and I am 100% with them,” she said.
“I have a fire in my belly since I got the call from the group. I feel I can do something about it. I was nervous [going to the Dáil], I have never done anything like that before.
“There are women out there who can’t stand and can’t have their voice heard, so I would like to do it for them. I am a lucky one.”
The HSE said it doesn’t comment on individual cases.