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Image / Editorial

‘Do not ignore this’: Vicky Phelan urges women to listen to their bodies


by Grace McGettigan
22nd Jan 2019
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Vicky Phelan, one of more than 200 Irish women to receive false-negative results for their smear tests in recent years, has been tirelessly campaigning for women’s health since.

All the while fighting cervical cancer, the Limerick-native brought the cervical check scandal to light by refusing to sign a non-disclosure agreement at the high court. Not only that, Vicky’s work has raised awareness for the symptoms of cervical cancer, as well as the drugs available to treat it.

Related: Vicky Phelan calls on the government to make
cervical cancer drug available 

Today, she’s urging women to listen to their bodies. Sharing an emotional post on Twitter, Vicky said she was motivated by the recent death of Orla Church; another campaigner who passed away from the disease.

Vicky Phelan via twitter

“This photo popped up on my Facebook Memories yesterday,” Vicky’s post began. “It’s of me and my daughter, Amelia, taken during a holiday in Lanzarote, exactly four years ago. We went on a holiday to Lanzarote to get away from it all.

“The photo was taken three months after I had finished my treatment. I still didn’t know how successful treatment had been. I didn’t have a scan until after we came back from holidays. I really thought, at that time, the worst was over me and that I was finished with cancer.

“An applicator is inserted in your vagina. Rods are attached and whatever is left of your insides is radiated, ‘just in case’…”

“I accepted being put into early menopause and going through barbaric brachytherapy treatment: you are given an epidural and knocked out three times in 10 days. An applicator is inserted in your vagina. Rods are attached and whatever is left of your insides is radiated, ‘just in case’.

“Well, ‘just in case’ didn’t work for me,” Vicky said. “My cancer came back with a vengeance three years later, twice the size as the first time around, and I was faced with no options except for palliative chemotherapy, which I could not accept.

‘Do not ignore this’

Vicky Phelan and daughter Amelia via Twitter

“I am sharing this here today to impress upon ALL you women how important it is to go for your smear but, more importantly, how important it is to know your body and to listen to your body.

If you notice any irregular bleeding between your periods, particularly if the blood is a different colour (pink-red rather than dark red): do NOT ignore this.

“There is no cure unless you are lucky enough to get it caught early.”

If you have persistent lower back pain, like a period pain that won’t go away, regardless of whether you are carrying small children on your hip or can find another explanation for back pain.

If you bleed after sex, do NOT ignore this.

“For ANY or ALL of these symptoms, make an appointment straight away with your GP and insist on a colposcopy, particularly if your gut instinct tells you something is wrong.

“You do not want this cancer. There is no cure unless you are lucky enough to get it caught early.”

See the Twitter thread in full below:

For information on booking a smear test, visit cervicalcheck.ie or talk with your GP.

Photos: Vicky Phelan via Twitter

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