Cervical Check campaigner Vicky Phelan says some people caught up in the scandal have not been able to go public with their experiences because they are in the throes of “nasty” divorces or separations.
Ms Phelan also told a conference that the support group for those affected knows of some women who can not go public because they had never told their family they had cervical cancer.
The Limerick woman has been one of the principal drivers of the campaign for transparency and accountability in the CervicalCheck scandal while also dealing with her own illness and launching the 221+ CervicalCheck Patient Support Group with Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh.
“The group that I am involved with, women are going through very nasty separations and divorces,” Ms Phelan told the audience at the North-South Criminology Conference held in UCC earlier this week.
Later, she said that some of the women were told by solicitors not to talk publically because of their particular individual circumstances. She said staying silent in such a way is “very difficult”.
The conference was entitled Nothing About Us Without Us.
Ms Phelan contrasted her high-profile role with that of other women who, for various reasons, have not been able to be as vocal.
She told those gathered that “I have always been considered a stubborn bitch”, and that she has always been an advocate, even before news of her own story broke last year, propelling the issue into the public domain.
Regarding her own diagnosis, she has been taking the drug Pembro (Pembrolizumab), having initially funded her own treatment.
“When you think about it, I should be dead,” she said. “I had a 10cm tumour mass here, touching off all my organs. There is no way I should be standing here. I am not in any pain, I am living my life.
“My logic is: ‘Why is somebody not looking at me?’ Instead of looking at me as an anomaly, why are they not studying me and saying: ‘Why is it working for her and not for other people?’”
Ms Phelan also said that she and others are awaiting the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists review, amid fears that audits might show that other women also had misread or false smear test results.