The pain of losing his mum Ann Marie McFadden to breast cancer is as raw now as the night Emmette Dillon said goodbye to her more than a year ago.
But the Derry nurse (26) says he can take comfort in a new charity single he’s written in memory of his mum, to raise money for charity.
“Mum was the most honest person you could meet, my best friend and greatest champion,” he said.
Emmette watched in awe as his mother defied medics who gave her just six months to live eventually succumbing to cancer more than seven years after her diagnosis.
But Emmette says he’ll never let go of his mother.
“I tell myself it’s ok to feel down, but the pain of her loss will never leave me,” he said.
“But at the same time I can’t lie down under it I have to go out and make a difference.”
It was in the wee small hours of the night when grief stopped Emmette from sleeping that he began to pen the words to a charity single which has now been released by Dylan Reid to raise money for the Foyle Hospice and the Marie Keating Foundation.
“I had been approached about doing charity single before,” he said, “and I said I would do it eventually. But one night I woke and couldn’t sleep and kept thinking about my mum. The words from the song just kept coming into my head.
“I was telling my mum that it was ok for her to go but at the same time asking her to stay with me. That’s what the words of the song are about - Walk with Me.”
“I got up the next day and rang Dylan Reid who is a great friend. Within two hours he had the melody written.
“This is not just a tribute to mum but an open letter to anyone who has lost someone.
“The best feedback I got was a message from the daughter of a gentleman who passed away who said the words were everything she had been feeling since his death.”
Emmette revealed how his Mum had been diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 39 when her doctor had referred her for screening after she had noticed a puffiness in her arm.
“But Mum couldn’t get the tests she needed done immediately because she was under 50,” he said. “It was a case of - pay for it privately and be seen tomorrow or wait 12 weeks. The NHS system for screening is draconian because of this age related screening process.
“Younger and younger women are being diagnosed with breast cancer, women in their 20s and 30s.
“That’s why we started this campaign - Be Brave, Be Body Aware Be Cancer Free. The campaign encourages women to be aware of their bodies.
“Mum had the tests done the next day privately and we were told her cancer was even more aggressive than we thought, it was terminal, she was given six months to live.
“She was given six months chemotherapy to try and stop the spread of the cancer but even then it was only symptom management. Throughout it all she was really positive. People have cancer - cancer doesn’t have them she said.
“In those years Mum became an advocate for cancer patients, she was a very positive person and she fought it, never letting it hold her back.
“She swam with dolphins and completed her degree in social work.
“In the end when we lost mum her heart and soul was still willing but it was her body that gave up. She had fought it for seven years.”
Emmette says that in his experience people know when something is wrong with their bodies.
“I am a nurse I’ve never looked after a cancer patient who didn’t know there was something wrong, I tell them keep going back, if you think something is wrong get a second opinion.
“Don’t be embarrassed, five or ten minutes with a doctor wont be as bad as going through chemotherapy for a year.
“Men tend to be more embarrassed, that’s why we did the nude calendar this year, to try and use the nudity to engage.
“For men, cancers like testicular and prostate all have signs and symptoms.”
Emmette is now calling for a judicial review to have screening ages changed.
“Politicians needs to understand the true human cost of cancer,” he said. “Our health ministers need to understand. If the health minister thinks lowering the screening age is not economically viable tell him to come and see me, someone who will never be able to speak and talk to his mum ever again. Go and visit the Foyle Hospice.
“This is something that is not going away.”
Emmette decided to split funds from the single between the Foyle Hospice and the Marie Keating foundation.
“I would have been one of those people who said the Foyle Hospice gets everything,” said Emmette. “But it’s only when it affects you personally that you see how phenomenal they are.
“Their runnings costs are huge and they get little government funding.”
The one year anniversary of the death of Emmette’s mum passed last week.
He took it as a sign that on the anniversary of her death, while he was on night shift, that on the exact time of her death he received the email that the record had been made.
“The support has been amazing,” he said. “We’ve have messages from Roma Downey, Matt Goss, Robert Sheehan, Westlife, Kym Marsh and Loose Women.
“Paul Casey produced the track, Blast Furnace gave us the recording studio, the Maldron gave us free rooms travelling over Ireland and we were also supported by Raw Muscle, Syenna, the Playhouse and Halliday Citroen.
The track ‘Walk with Me’ is available on Itunes, Amazon and Playstore.
You can watch the video online at derryjournal.com