‘Find out who is responsible’ - Vicky Phelan’s message to Taoiseach
New drug has allowed Limerick woman return to sleeping on a bed
Vicky Phelan from Annacotty, Co. Limerick, said that two or three weeks ago, she wasn’t feeling good and was starting to go downhill but a new drug is starting to take effect. File photograph: Collins Courts
Vicky Phelan has said when she meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar she will demand accountability for failings in the cervical cancer screening programme including the delayed communication of incorrect smear test results to patients.
The terminally ill Limerick mother of two, whose High Court action against the US-based laboratory subcontracted by CervicalCheck to assess smear tests, was last week settled for for €2.5 million, has been invited to a private meeting with Mr Varadkar. The Government has promised an inquiry.
“I want a commitment that this inquiry or tribunal, whatever form it takes, that there will be accountability. I don’t think it’s enough just to carry out an inquiry that is going to look at the clinical side of things. I think accountability needs to happen. We need to find out who is responsible, when and what they knew, and that’s what I will be demanding,” she told the Limerick Leader.
Ms Phelan was told by oncologists in Limerick she had six to twelve months to live in January 2018.
She said she was informed by one oncologist “she had no answers for me” and suggested palliative chemotherapy.
“The way I was treated from the point of view of my cancer is shocking. The fact that they would tell a young woman to go home and that’s it. And I think that’s disgraceful,” she said.
Ms Phelan had a smear tests in 2011 which was reported as normal. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014 and a review of the 2011 smear showed abnormalities at that time were missed. However this information was not relayed to her until 2017.
Ms Phelan raised €197,950 to be placed on a clinical trial in the US but was told she was unsuccessful in getting a place on that trial. In the past fortnight, she has been able to avail of the drug Pembrolizumab in Ireland, which she is responding well to.
“Two or three weeks ago, I wasn’t feeling good at all. I was starting to go downhill. So this drug is starting to take effect and that’s a huge positive for me,” she told her local newspaper.
She said her sleeping has improved and she has returned to sleeping on a bed instead of a recliner which she had used due to the pain she felt when lying down flat.
She said she is also using complementary therapies such as going to a bio-energy healer and receiving a high doses of vitamin C twice a week, alongside her drug treatment.
“I have an appointment every day, outside of the drugs, just to keep myself ticking over, really, to keep myself alive,” she said.
She said she will use the money raised for the clinical trial to give to charitable causes in her community.
“There are big chunks of money that I got from home in my local community, where they raised €30,000. I am going to give that back because they are looking at setting up a fund for people in the community. Not just for cancer but for financial support.”