Rape survivor and campaigner Fiona Doyle has just returned from Turkey where she had surgery for a partial stomach bypass after developing pre-cancerous cells.
She spoke to the Sunday Independent from her Dublin home this weekend, having returned to Ireland on Thursday night. She is now in self-isolation due to Covid-19 for the next fortnight alongside her husband Jim, who travelled to Turkey with her for the major surgery.
"I'm feeling good. Quite weak but I am doing well overall. It is good to be home," she said.
Ms Doyle, who became a high-profile campaigner for survivors of sexual abuse after the conviction of her paedophile father Patrick O'Brien, said she had "no choice" but to travel overseas for a stomach bypass. There was a four-year waiting list in Ireland for the operation under the public system and she was quoted €20,000 to get it done privately, she said.
As a consequence, the mother of six looked into having the operation done privately overseas and ended up travelling to Turkey to have the procedure carried out the week before last.
In recent years, Ms Doyle developed a condition known as Barrett's oesophagus. This painful condition, which often develops after years of experiencing gastroesophageal reflux, worsened over the past 12 months. It led to her vomiting during her sleep on numerous occasions and her doctors recommended a stomach bypass to alleviate it, after also identifying pre-cancerous cells.
Ms Doyle developed Barrett's oesophagus due to a cosmetic procedure, known as stomach or gastric banding, carried out 14 years ago.
"I had the stomach banding done 14 years ago. I got it done because I was struggling emotionally with the abuse I suffered. It was linked to me feeling lonely, unhappy, unattractive. I was overwhelmed. I turned to food because of the abuse I suffered as a child. But I needed mental help, not surgical," she said.
"I paid the physical price for that bad decision. The clinic where I got the stomach banding done is long closed down. I'm trying to fix it now, that's what going to Turkey and getting the procedure done was all about. I need to make myself well for my children and my grandchildren and to be able to live my life. In recent times, I haven't been able to because of all of the pain I've been in with Barrett's oesophagus. It was just getting worse and worse, I couldn't live a normal healthy life and the vomiting in my sleep was increasing and getting dangerous."
Ms Doyle said she would have much preferred to have had the stomach bypass carried out in Ireland rather than travel overseas during the Covid-19 pandemic, but had "no other choice".
"I simply didn't have the €20,000 to get it done privately. And I don't think it would have been safe to wait four years to get it done on the public health system. The pre-cancerous cells are there, I couldn't wait that long."
She said her experience at the Yasam Life hospital in Antalya was "wonderful" and she praised the level of care she received from Dr Akilli Suleyman. "I know it can be daunting to go to another country for a medical procedure, but my experience was very good. I would recommend it."
After isolating, Ms Doyle will visit her GP and be sent for further medical tests to determine that the procedure was successful.
"All the signs are good at the moment. They ran lots of tests in Turkey and they provided me with all the medication and after-care I needed. I was very impressed with the doctors and nurses and the Yasam clinic in Turkey, it was very much like the Beacon clinic in Dublin."
Ms Doyle was abused by her father for over 10 years in her childhood home at Mackintosh Park, Pottery Road in Dun Laoghaire. He walked free from prison in October last year, having served six years behind bars. The 80-year-old, who suffers from various health problems, is living at a Wicklow nursing home, but his daughter does not know where.
"He's in a nursing home somewhere in Wicklow, I don't know where. For all I know, he could be dead and buried. I hope that's not the case, simply because I want to see him being put into the ground."