Vicky Phelan on ending cancer treatment: ‘Four weeks ago I didn’t think I’d see Christmas’

Vicky Phelan On Ending Cancer Treatment: ‘Four Weeks Ago I Didn’t Think I’d See Christmas’
Vicky Phelan said she stopped chemotherapy due to the intense side effects, opting instead to focus on making “memories” with her family. Photo: RTÉ
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CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan has spoken about how in recent weeks she did not feel she would live to “see Christmas,” after deciding to stop chemotherapy treatment for her cancer.

Ms Phelan, who was given a terminal cancer diagnosis in 2018, said she stopped chemotherapy due to the intense side effects, opting instead to focus on making “memories” with her family.


“I don’t want to die, I’m a young woman, I have young children, that’s what made me want to fight for them … You still want more, everyone wants more,” she told RTÉ’s Late Late Show on Friday.

Ms Phelan’s High Court action, which was settled in April 2018 over the incorrect reading of her smear test, brought the CervicalCheck scandal to light. It later emerged that more than 100 other women had not been informed of an audit that had revised their earlier, negative smear tests.

“Four weeks ago I didn’t think I’d see Christmas, that’s how real this is for me … At this stage, I’ve been fighting this terminal part of the disease since 2018,” she said.


“I’ve always known this cancer is incurable … I have been very realistic about it,” she said. While there was always a hope for a “miracle drug,” often new treatments came with side effects and other “costs to your health,” she said.

Ms Phelan said after ending treatment she had travelled to the United States to receive, she came back to Ireland having “exhausted all my options”.

Initially after returning she tried chemotherapy. “I really want to see Christmas, so I had to do it for the kids,” she said.

“I did two sessions of the chemotherapy. I got the treatment on the 18th of October and I could not get out of bed until the 29th of October … I was sick, in pain, from one side effect to another,” Ms Phelan said. “I couldn’t even have a conversation with the kids, that’s how bad it was,” she said.

Vicky Phelan stops chemotherapy with aim to spend...
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“I would rather my children have memories of doing stuff with me, and if I go sooner, so be it,” she said. The conversation to tell her two children she would be stopping chemotherapy had been “tough,” she said.

Ms Phelan spoke about planning her own funeral, stating she wanted a humanist service, with a “bit of colour” and music, rather than “doom and gloom”.

She criticised the deference often shown to doctors. “I think the medical profession is one we haven’t really tackled, we still look at doctors as if they are all knowing, and that’s not the case,” she said. Irish people were “too quiet for our own good,” and she encouraged others to ask questions about their care.

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on with women’s bodies, and it is embarrassing but you have to be able to talk about them, because otherwise you end up in a situation like me … When you know your body, don’t be afraid to ask questions about it,” she said.

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