Tuesday 21 January 2020

'My Fiona was right all along', says cancer victim's husband

Widower hopes ‘no family will go through this again’

Gary Murray, who lost his wife Fiona to cancer, with their children (from left) Chynna, Blane and Zoe.
Gary Murray, who lost his wife Fiona to cancer, with their children (from left) Chynna, Blane and Zoe.

A heartbroken husband, who lost his wife to cervical cancer four years ago - and only found out in October it might have been avoided - has said he is bracing himself for a wave of emotion today.

Gary Murray, from Finglas, lost his wife Fiona in 2015. He and their four children are among around 300 families who will relive a cancer diagnosis as the report of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is expected to be published.

The RCOG experts reviewed the slides of 1,050 women who had been through cervical screening with CervicalCheck and went on to develop the cancer.

"I hope the report means that no family will have to go through this ever again," Mr Murray said.

It is understood the reviewers found "discordant" results in a significant number of women's slides before cancer diagnosis, which means that abnormalities were missed, either through a mistake or due to the limitations of science.

Their cancer may have been prevented if abnormalities were treated.


A bereft Mr Murray said it will be another sad day, adding: "The report is going to bring it all back. Fiona was right all along."

Over the past few months, women and bereaved families who submitted their slides for review have received a one-to-one report of the findings.

In the case of Fiona, it was found that a smear test, reported negative in 2009, had high-grade abnormalities when it was re-examined. However, Fiona was told it was clear.

She had another smear test in 2012.

Photos of the tragic mum
Photos of the tragic mum

Her husband was distraught and left in shock as he read her review report in October in the home they shared.

The stark finding was that if she had been referred for treatment of pre-cancerous cells in 2009 it is "likely the cancer" would have been prevented.

Mr Murray received Fiona's report on October 22, the day Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a formal apology to CervicalCheck victims in the Dail.

He recalled how Fiona, who was only 35 years old when she died, was not diagnosed with stage two cervical cancer until 2014. However, she had instinctively felt something was wrong and had felt unwell for some time - but despite going for tests was given the all-clear.

"She was not feeling good in 2012 and suffered from blood clots, cramps, back pain and severe headaches. She kept saying she did not feel right. Fiona was very careful of her health and if she did not feel right she would get checked," Mr Murray said.

She put up a brave fight but survived for only eight months, expressing her deep distress at leaving her family behind. She died in May 2015.


"Fiona was terrified of dying," her husband said. The family are comforted by the memory of the couple's joyful wedding day on May 1, 2015, just two weeks before her death.

Mr Murray proposed to Fiona on Valentine's Day and on the day of the ceremony they were both smiling and in tears.

She told him how much she loved him before slipping into a coma and dying.

They were together for 18 years and the wedding was organised by the St Francis Hospice in Blanchardstown. Her loss has left behind children who were ranging in age from 15 to just eight when she died.

Today's report is separate to the CervicalCheck internal audit, revealed in April 2018, which found that the tests of 221 women were incorrect.

The audit only came to light as a result of the Vicky Phelan court case and her decision to go public.

A later investigation by Dr Gabriel Scally found CervicalCheck, which was set up in 2008, was doomed to fail but he said he had no evidence that laboratories used by the service in Ireland and the US were below standard.

It later emerged that slides from Ireland were sent to laboratories in Las Vegas and Hawaii without the knowledge of CervicalCheck.

Today's report will present an overview of the findings and will include a set of conclusions and recommendations.

It will not be able to state if the slides which were found to be incorrect in their original reading were wrong due to negligence.

The slides of those women found to be discordant will need to be independently assessed to provide an opinion on whether the miss was a result of the screener's fault.

It is understood it will find that in the case of some women they received a wrong result for more than one slide. Several relate to high-grade abnormalities which were not picked up.

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