• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

EXCLUSIVE: Vicky has been rushed to hospital twice in a fortnight as the trial cancer drug’s debilitating side effects take their toll

Jun 20, 2021

Vicky Phelan admits her time in the US has been very tough but she says if she hadnt gone abroad for treatment she would now be dead.
The CervicalCheck whistleblower makes the stark admission as she prepares to fly home to spend time with her kids.
Vicky has been rushed to hospital twice in a fortnight as the trial cancer drugs debilitating side effects take their toll.
But the Co Limerick mum-of-two, who took on giant pharma to expose the screening scandal, refuses to give up.
Speaking from her Maryland base she told the Irish Sunday Mirror: The doctor is constantly trying to adjust the doses to keep the tumour levels down.
I was on the main drug [M7824] every two weeks and the other two once a month, but now Im on a full dose of the main drug and one of the others every two weeks.
Vicky Phelan
Its a lot for the body to cope with. It causes nausea and vomiting and other side effects.
Vicky was rushed to hospital last week and her medical team spent three nights trying to bring down a raging temperature.
It is just one of many side effects of M7824 which can also cause inflammation, Bells Palsy, bleeding and extreme nausea.
Now on antibiotics, Vicky is focusing on her upcoming trip home but admits she will have to reevaluate whether the clinical trial is worth it in the long run.
She said: I remember having a conversation with my oncologist in September of last year, at that stage we were researching options.
He came back and all he offered me was palliative chemotherapy. I was disgusted.
I said, Im not ready to go down this road, there are other options out there at this stage.
I knew if I went on palliative chemotherapy Id be dead in 12 months, so why would I do that? That was last September.
You get eight to 12 months on palliative care, so I would be either dead or on the way out by now, and Id be sick as a pig in a hospital or hospice.
Yet here I am, things are not wonderful but theyre not awful, Im still getting out and about, not bed bound.
Im not looking for a miracle, all Im looking for is more time.
Vicky, 48, began her cancer treatment in January and confesses to suffering severe bouts of homesickness which took her unawares.
While she knew she was leaving her family behind in the middle of a pandemic, she secretly hoped theyd get out to visit her by Easter.
Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan shared a selfie from her sightseeing trip in Washington DC (1/7/21)
She added: It did hit me hard I think because it would have been different if I was coming on holidays.
I was coming out for totally different purpose, this wasnt for pleasure.
I naively assumed some of my family would have been able to visit, I was hoping the kids could get out for Easter. When I got here I had to brace myself for being here on my own.
Im good at managing on my own, Im quite independent, but you know… when youre sick.
The first couple of weeks were the worst because I didnt know what I was going to face into.
I didnt know anybody at all, since then Ive picked up some good friends along the way who have been good to me.
One of her new pals all Irish who reached out to her on social media called to her apartment with a full grocery shop and a kettle the day she moved in. Gift basket store The Paddy Box has also surprised her with deliveries of Irish staples including Tayto, rashers, brown bread, pudding and tea bags.
Then there are the emails and messages of support which she still receives in their hundreds. One of the toughest side effects to come to terms with is Bells Palsy which resulted in paralysis of the muscles on the left hand side of her face.
Vicky said: I can only describe it as like the numbing from a dentists needle. Your face and eye is affected, your whole cheek and your mouth. Its the eye that is driving me crazy, if it gets worse the doctor says Ill have to go on steroids.
Some people have mentioned acupuncture which Ive had before so I might try that.
Its only temporary, but it can take months to wear off.
The first thing Vicky does when she gets up each morning is to put in a video call to her daughter Amelia and son Darragh.
She then calls during the day and again in the evening before they go to bed. Plans for her trip home in July are what keep her going right now. She added: Ill hopefully get a month. I normally have treatment every two weeks so the doctor said it might be longer.
I told him, Ive my flight booked home but I dont have my flight booked back he said well talk about that later.
The kids were delighted, particularly my son because hes found it very hard not having a date.
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Hed get very ratty not talking to me on the phone for a few days.
Ive no big plans, were not going to go mental. I will base myself in Doonbeg, weve a holiday home there.
Its ridiculously hot here, 35 degrees with very high humidity, so I wont be disappointed whatever the weather. I know I have to take PCR test 72 hours before the flight and need to isolate when I get home, Ill figure it out nearer the time.
I hope to switch off, Im coming home to see my family.
The only appearance Vicky has committed to is the launch of the Triptych portrait of her in her native village of Mooncoin in Co Kilkenny.
The portrait raised 46,500 for the Heroes Aid charity at auction and will tour the country to raise more vital funding.
Vicky is battling terminal cancer after her diagnosis was delayed by three years as a result of a false-negative result on a 2011 smear test. She sued Clinical Pathology Laboratories and the case was settled for 2.5million, encouraging others to come forward and kick-started a massive campaign.
And she admits while she has been hugely disappointed with the CervicalCheck tribunal established by the Government, she refuses to become bitter.
Vicky said: I dont give it any thought because we did what we could, we tried to salvage it. They didnt listen, what can you do? It could have been more of a success than it is, I dont know how they can spend 2.5million on something that three people have applied to.
They should be hauled over the coals but they wont.
I dont lose any sleep over it. The person who should lose sleep over it is Stephen Donnelly, the Department of Health and Department of Justice.
For now Vicky is putting any decisions about her treatment on hold, focusing instead on spending time with family and friends.
She added: I will head to Doonbeg to walk on my favourite beach, that is the thing Im looking forward to most; that and just sleeping in my own bed.