Vicky Phelan’s name came under the limelight of Irish media under tragic circumstances. Yet, since then, she has used her voice and the cards that have unfairly been dealt to her by fate to save other women.
Phelan is one of the women who have been affected by the Cervical Check Scandal which was revealed this year. In 2014, Phelan battled with a first cancer diagnosis, in 2017 – after three years cancer-free – she was told that it had come back and could not be treated, as it as spread further, and she had already received the maximum amount of radiation during her first round of chemotherapy. Upon examining her files, Phelan realized that a smear test she had done in 2011 had been misread by a US lab. Until her own investigation, she had never been made aware that her current diagnosis, which is terminal, could have been avoided.
The news were devastating on a personal level, but also to the whole of Irish women and society who, in the midst of the Repeal 8th Campaign, stood as one behind Phelan and further called for changes to be made to the Irish Healthcare system and the way it deals with women and their bodies.
Since then, the HSE announced that a total of 162 women were not informed of a delay in their cancer diagnosis. 17 of those women, amongst whom mother of five Emma Mhic Mhathuna, have passed away. Initial shock left place to anger and a fearless determination to speak out. Phelan selflessly did so, sharing details about her private life during her lawsuit against the HSE and CPL. She settled a High Court action for €2.5 million, but it is so that the next generation of Irish women inherits a better healthcare system with more transparency that she decided to make noise. With the help of a fundme campaign to receive new expensive drug treatments, Phelan intends to keep fighting as long as possible.Thanks to Phelan’s voice, 8000 people have since contacted cervical check helpline.
Despite the laboratories that failed her, Phelan still retains her faith in the healthcare system and has strongly advocated women to keep supporting the CervicalCheck programme and urged them to have regular smear tests. The way Phelan has dealt with the scandal is nothing short but extraordinary and deserves special recognition.