VICKY PHELAN will return home to her family next week after six months receiving experimental immunotherapy in the United States.
CervicalCheck campaigner Ms Phelan, who is fighting terminal cervical cancer after receiving a false negative smear test in 2014, is undergoing the experimental cancer treatment in Maryland in the hopes it will give her more time with her family.
She left Ireland in January of this year and will return next week, after a full six months away which had both good and bad results; most recently, Ms Phelan has suffered from serious side effects from the treatment, including Bells Palsy, vomiting and fever which required hospitalisation.
Ms Phelan spoke on RTÉ's Sunday with Miriam yesterday where she spoke about returning home to her two young children, Darragh and Amelia, who she has not seen in six months, and admitted she never believed it would be this long before she was reunited with family.
"I really didn’t think when I came out here in January that it would be six months before I’d see my children," she told the programme. "I honestly thought that they’d be able to come out."
She said that, in hindsight, if she had known that travel restrictions would remain so harsh that her family would not be able to visit for the full six months, "I don't know would I have come out" to the US.
While she will be able to spend some time with her family in Ireland now, Ms Phelan will have to return to the US in future to continue the treatment, and worries that travel restrictions between Ireland and the US will still be in place, which she admitted will be "hard".
"It's tough," she said, adding that it is "much more emotional" knowing she will soon see her children.
The side effects from the experimental treatment have been "relentless" and her face in particular has "taken a battering" due to the clinical trial, but Ms Phelan does not have any "alternative option".
"I really was kind of thinking ‘I don’t know if I can keep doing this’," Ms Phelan says, reflecting on her time in hospital after suffering from serious side effects.
"But at the same time I knew well that if I don’t keep doing this there’s really not much else I can do."
Ms Phelan took the US laboratory that carried out the inaccurate smears to court, and in 2018, Ms Phelan was awarded a €2.5m settlement by Ireland’s High Court. She has devoted her life to raising awareness and seeking justice for the other at least 221 women affected by the scandal.
In 2019, Ms Phelan released a memoir detailing her life, her battle with cancer and the continued fight for justice over the CervicalCheck scandal, entitled Overcoming.