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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Brave Vicky 'overwhelmed' by UL honour

Vicky Phelan, who was awarded an honorary degree at University of Limerick is congratulated by her son Darragh. Photo: Mark Condren
Vicky Phelan, who was awarded an honorary degree at University of Limerick is congratulated by her son Darragh. Photo: Mark Condren

Ralph Riegel

Cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan plans to use some of her fundraising to support a specialist oncology position "to shame the Government" into doing more for people with a terminal diagnosis.

Vicky, speaking as she accepted an honorary doctorate from the University of Limerick (UL), demanded access for patients to the latest revolutionary treatments.

She is now on the new drug Pembrolizumab - and revealed she feels "100pc fine".

"Why aren't other women in my position receiving the same treatment? I was going downhill (before Pembrolizumab) - I thought this was the beginning of the end," she said.

She now plans to fund a position within an oncology centre so someone can advise patients on new drug developments.

"There should be somebody you can go to who will help you to look up clinical trials or alternative drugs. It is not fair to give people no hope and expect them to go home and accept that that is your lot."

Vicky fought back tears as she was given a standing ovation at UL as she accepted her honorary degree watched by her husband, Jim, and children Amelia (12) and Darragh (7).

Stephen Teap, who lost his wife after a cervical cancer false negative, attended the UL ceremony to support Vicky and the Phelan family.

Vicky, a UL graduate and former university employee, helped highlight the cervical cancer test scandal earlier this year when she refused to sign a non-disclosure settlement after her smear tests incorrectly gave a negative reading seven years ago.

She was diagnosed with cancer three years later.

Vicky said the UL award was "a dream come true".

"My mother always joked that I was an eternal student - I have two Masters degrees. I started a PhD but wasn't able to complete it. It is a great honour for me," she said.

The award was presented to Vicky by UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald and the citation was read by her friend, Dr Máiréad Moriarty.

The ceremony was so oversubscribed that several hundred supporters gathered outside in the sunshine to watch a live stream of the event.

Vicky was hailed for her courage, inspiration and dedication to helping others.

"In her steadfast refusal to be silenced, Vicky Phelan has surrendered her anonymity and has become a national voice for the voiceless," Dr Moriarty said.

"In doing so, she has given immeasurable service to this country. She has given up so much for the women of Ireland, empowering them to demand the truth. Hers are truly exceptional achievements. The UL community is humbled by Vicky's accomplishments, inspired by her example and proud to call her one of our own."

Irish Independent

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