Vicky Phelan to Miriam O'Callaghan - ‘It takes away your sense of being a woman’

Earlier this week Miriam O'Callaghan visited Limerick to meet with Vicky Phelan.

The interview brings us right back to the very beginning of Vicky's story.

"The big thing that made me go to the doctor in the end, some people kind of get taken aback when I talk about this, but I think it needs to be said, because cervical cancer is not talked about an awful lot because of where it is, and people feel ashamed, but I bled after sex and that made me go Oh My God, there's something wrong here."

Vicky spoke of being sent for an urgent colposcopy, speaking to friends Vicky was told she'd be fine.

Speaking to Miriam, she said that she was almost gagging during the procedure, "you can smell your flesh burning, it's horrible."

Provisionally booked for a hysterectomy, Vicky was asked was she finished having her family.

She said she was.

After the colposcopy, samples were sent for a biopsy.

Vicky spoke of receiving a call from Mr. Hickey to say the results were back and that she had cancer.

She said: "He told me that he knew it was cancer straight away. He could see clearly.

"He said basically you had a 4cm tumour on your cervix, I managed to laser off maybe 3cm but there's still some left that I couldn't get at, he said."

With options available, she was told that he wanted to send her for an MRI to be sure that the cancer had not spread.

She said: "The results of that came back on the 29th of July, three days before the hysterectomy... went in for the result of this scan and that was the start of it really getting much much worse."

The cancer had spread beyond Vicky's cervix.

Vicky told Miriam: "The cancer moved up my body, in less than three years and it’s untreatable.

"So I put my body and my family through all that for nothing really at the end of the day as far as I’m concerned."

Vicky went into detail about brachytherapy that she went through, having had blood and, platelet transfusions beforehand.

She told Miriam of having an applicator inserted into her vagina before rods were attached to radiate ‘whatever is left’.

"‘I had three epidurals in the space of a week and a half.

"It’s an awful cancer to get, women speak about breast cancer and having their breasts removed but you can’t have vaginal reconstruction, and it’s very painful to have sex afterwards and it takes away your sense of being a woman."

Vicky told of her decision to get a solicitor in January, while waiting for a biopsy she took a look at her file which had been left in the room with her, inside was a letter with the top page missing - the letter from the cervical screening programme about the review.

She didn’t know who it was addressed to, or when it dated back to.

She said: "There was a bit on the letter on how to communicate this with the patient."

Vicky has called for a review of the clinical labs used to test smear samples, one here in Ireland and two in the United States.

She hopes that their contracts will not be renewed.

Picking up on the media coverage, she said her daughter has been quite upset this week.

A woman of no faith, Vicky does say that she is spiritual believing that what you give, you get back.

Minister Simon Harris phoned on Friday morning to personally apologise, and to let her know that he will keep her posted on the progress of the review.

She is now enjoying the small things, having brought her daughter to the cinema Thursday night.

She said: "Yes I’m living with this terminal diagnosis but I’m not dead, I’m still here, still very much here’,

She also said that with everything that has gone on, she does not want to see women deciding not to have regular smear checks.

The interview will broadcast on Sunday with Miriam at 10am.

Listen to the full interview below.

- Digital Desk


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