Cervical cancer campaigner and patient advocate Vicky Phelan, who is in the US in a bid to prolong her life, has revealed she is “very nervous” about starting her new drugs trial.
The Kilkenny native and mother-of-two, who now lives in Limerick, flew out to Maryland two weeks ago to prepare for the clinical trial which started today.
A check-up last October confirmed her cancer was growing and she had developed a new tumour in one of her lungs so new drugs were needed.
Ms Phelan, who has been using immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab said the forthcoming US trial of the drug M7824, which is being directed by Dr Julius Strauss at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Maryland, and has already showed some positive markers.
Last week she underwent tests to see if she was suitable for the trials which she now is. Three years ago, she went for the trials at the same hospital she is attending now and was told she was not suitable for the treatment.
On April 25, 2018, she gave voice to those who had been suffering in silence, as it emerged that more than 220 women with cervical cancer had initially been given the all-clear based on smear tests carried out by the CervicalCheck screening programme.
Since then, Ms Phelan has become a tireless campaigner for women who have suffered at the hands of the healthcare system.
Speaking to her local radio station KCLRFM, based in Kilkenny and Carlow, just hours before she starts her new treatment she said: “I’m obviously quite nervous because unlike the drug I’ve been on for the past three years (which is) Pembrolizumab, this trial that I’m on involves three drugs.
“I’m a little bit nervous about how my body is going to react as three new drugs are being pumped into me. At the same time I’m trying to tell myself this is my best chance of getting more time.” She revealed that she would not consider the alternative of not having trial treatment.
“The alternative was palliative chemotherapy would not have given me a huge amount of time so I’m trying to remain positive and hopeful.
“I think this is the best option for me because the main drug on this trial is very similar to Pembrolizumab, the immunotherapy drug, so because I responded so well to it, the doctor looking after this trial thinks I should respond equally as well, so fingers crossed that will be the case.
Great memories of a wonderful evening spent with the amazing Vicky Phelan in Cashel library. Thinking of you today Vicky on your first day of treatment in the US. @PhelanVicky ❤️ pic.twitter.com/N7VsVCH5Os— TippCoCoLibraries (@TippLib) January 26, 2021
“But yeah I’m obviously very nervous about starting and I know I’m going to have some fairly rotten side effects. Please God they’ll ease off after the first four or five days but I’m getting myself ready mentally and physically for a rough week.” With her daughter Amelia and son Darragh at home, she explained that all the well messages she is receiving are a massive boost to her.
“What’s keeping me going over here with no family and friends is all the support I’m getting from home. It’s just been phenomenal, to be honest.
“I can honestly say that I didn’t have the same level of support as I do now when my story broke with the cervical cancer story. It’s just amazing and is making things a lot easier for me because leaving my kids at home behind me and into the unknown in the States and in the middle of a pandemic is not for everybody.
“The alternative for me was not an option. I’m looking forward to a situation in a few months when I can hopefully come home for a visit at least and stay on the drug then for as long as it takes and that it will give me another two or three years like Pembro did.”
Today is a big day for Vicky Phelan who is starting her treatment over in the US today, we are all behind you here Vicky, praying and lighting our candle 🙏 #VickyPhelan @PhelanVicky #WeSaluteYou pic.twitter.com/J4CG0RzXLG— Dingle Tours (@sleaheadtours) January 26, 2021
RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy also added his well-wishes to the brave mum on his morning radio show. He said: “A word of good wishes to our friend Vicky Phelan and indeed her family. It’s a big day today. She’s starting her treatment.
“We just want to send all the love in the world to her over in Maryland. She is a remarkable human being. Our thoughts and prayers to her as we admire her so much. We just love and adore (her) with every fibre in our being. Good luck Vicky our thoughts are with you. “
On Twitter Hero’s Aid said they were “sending our love and support to our heroic ambassador. Today is Vicky’s first day of her new treatment in the USA. We’ll be lighting a candle for you Vicky”.