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Image / Self / Real-life Stories

‘Do not ignore this’: Vicky Phelan’s message rings more true today, than ever


By IMAGE
14th Nov 2022
‘Do not ignore this’: Vicky Phelan’s message rings more true today, than ever

Vicky Phelan changed the course of healthcare for Irish women, exemplifying what one person can achieve when they use their voice for the greater good. She died in the early hours of this morning, surrounded by her family at Milford Hospice in Co Limerick. 

Vicky Phelan, one of more than 200 Irish women to receive false-negative results for their smear tests in recent years, spent years tirelessly campaigning for women’s health – all the while fighting her own devastating cervical cancer diagnosis. Bringing the Cervical Check scandal to light by refusing to sign a non-disclosure agreement at the High Court, the Limerick native was also responsible for raising huge awareness for the symptoms of cervical cancer, as well as the drugs available to treat it.

Regularly urging women to listen to their bodies, Vicky spoke out on the importance of following your instincts many times over the years – but it’s a message she shared three years ago that has struck a chord with us today.

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. 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