CervicalCheck campaigner to focus on her health and family

Vicky Phelan is to pull back from campaigning after prolonged stay in hospital

Vicky Phelan sys she has not retired from her campaigning role, but is taking step back. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times.

Vicky Phelan sys she has not retired from her campaigning role, but is taking step back. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times.

 

CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan has said she is to pull back from campaigning to focus on her health and her family.

The Limerick mother of two revealed on Twitter that she was taking a break after having recently spent a prolonged period in hospital after she had been “very ill”.

Ms Phelan (43) wrote: “Apologies to all my followers on Twitter for my absence over the past couple of weeks. I was very ill. I spent almost a week in hospital, my first as an inpatient since I got cancer.

“It was scary but I am okay again and a CT scan has revealed that my cancer has not spread,” she said.

“There is no explanation for what made me so ill so they have put it down to a viral infection.”

Ms Phelan added: “My time in hospital has taught me some valuable lessons, mainly that I need to pull back from campaigning so heavily and focus on my health and my two young children.”

In January 2018, doctors gave Ms Phelan between six and 12 months to live.

Latest treatments

She declined the offer of a palliative treatment plan, and instead went to work researching the latest treatments.

She discovered through her own research a drug called Pembrolizumab (Pembro) which she believes has kept her alive as well as shrinking her tumours by 60 per cent.

Speaking on the first anniversary of her terminal cancer diagnosis, she happily declared she was “outliving my prognosis”.

Ms Phelan is using part of a High Court settlement to fund a position offering advice on the latest medical trials and treatments for patients given a terminal illness prognosis.

Ms Phelan said she had not retired from her campaigning role.

“I will still use my voice to campaign and to contribute to the conversation around women’s health but I will be doing it on my terms.”

She added that, in her opinion, eradicating cervical cancer was “achievable” through “upgrading and increasing the uptake of the HPV vaccine and introducing HPV testing”.

Ms Phelan has also successfully led a campaign to have Pembro made available to all women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Previously only women in the 221 group affected by the CervicalCheck controversy could access the drug.