Vicky Phelan’s Legacy Will Never Be Forgotten
Vicky sadly passed away this week.
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Today, CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan passed away, aged 48.
An advocate for women’s health, an author, and a tireless campaigner for justice, Vicky was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, three years after being given the all clear following an inaccurate smear test result. What followed was years of campaigning for healthcare reform, as she worked alongside other women and families affected by the scandal, which affected hundreds.
Her ask was simple: women needed support and women needed to be listened to – and the pain and hurt caused by the CervicalCheck controversy could never happen again.
In the year after her diagnosis, Vicky became a figure of strength and hope in Ireland and beyond, a woman who would come to be known by her determination, empathy, and love.
She spoke countless times about her experience in TV interviews, in her memoir, on social media and more. In 2021, she spoke openly about her decision to stop chemotherapy and begin palliative care. She spoke of her children and the time she wanted to spend with them. She spoke of wanting to be ready for her passing when that day came.
She also spoke of women’s health, and the changes that were needed to ensure these same mistakes were not repeated. That same year, she told Róisín Ingle at The Irish Times Women’s Podcast Big Night In, that Ireland needed a minister for women’s health in order for their care to be “taken seriously.”
“Men don’t know women like women know women, and I’m sorry, that is a reality” she said. “I do think we need somebody in there who is a woman, and who knows what it feels like to be a woman and to have periods and to have babies and to go through the menopause.”
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Support surrounded Vicky but she provided it too. Following broadcaster Charlie Bird’s diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, she rallied with him, committing to supporting the former presenter as he raised awareness of the condition and raised money to provide vital funds for those suffering.
Vicky’s years were cut short, but she spent the time she had helping others. Women’s health has long been a point of controversy in Ireland and beyond, with countless patients left misdiagnosed, frustrated, and waiting for treatments that should have been provided to them long ago.
The CervicalCheck scandal proved that the safety of women was neglected, their fears ignored, their lives disposable. Much change is still needed in the Irish healthcare system and beyond, but the work that Vicky has done, and the work that will continue in her name, will forever be recognised.
Ireland is a better place because of her work, and her legacy will never be forgotten.
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