Sunday 20 October 2019

A whirlwind year for the woman who started it all

Vicky Phelan. Photo: Fergal Philips
Vicky Phelan. Photo: Fergal Philips

CervicalCheck and healthcare campaigner Vicky Phelan has learned enough lessons in life in the past year to write a self-help book.

In fact, she is working on her memoir, which will be published in September.

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The Limerick mother of two, who previously worked in education, has won a host of awards and accolades since she stood outside the Four Courts on April 25 last year after her High Court case arising out of a wrong smear test result.

Since then, she has set in motion what is nothing short of an overhaul of the national cervical screening programme.

While she coped with the whirlwind of publicity, she has also carefully managed her own health and an advanced cervical cancer diagnosis.

She has seen a reduction in her tumours since starting on the drug Pembrolizumab and has successfully fought for it to be made available to other women with the cancer who it might benefit.

Highlights of the year included the garden party meeting with Meghan Markle and being named by the BBC as one of the 100 most inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2018.

But there have also been the crunch one-to-one meetings with Health Minister Simon Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at critical junctures when she used her influence to break a logjam.

In February, she was temporarily laid low by an infection before recovering and reminding everyone her first priority must be her health and her family - her husband Jim, teenage daughter Amelia and son Darragh who has just made his First Holy Communion.

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