treatment update | 

Vicky Phelan feeling ‘positive’ after promising signs level of cancer in her body is 'starting to go down’

Vicky left Ireland for Maryland seven weeks ago to undergo a trial on a cancer drug she hoped would stop the spread of her cancer.

Vicky Phelan. Photo by: Caroline Quinn

Eoghan Moloney

CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan has said her doctor is positive that the clinical trial she is undergoing in the US is having a positive effect.

Vicky left Ireland for Maryland seven weeks ago to undergo a trial on a cancer drug she hoped would stop the spread of her cancer and today she told Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio 1 that it appears to be going well.

One marker being examined by her doctor is showing promising signs that “the level of cancer in my body is starting to go down”, Vicky said, adding: “That’s a good sign.”

Vicky said the normal level of this marker in women is roughly 45, but hers was around 330 before her treatment. After three treatments, her doctor said this has fallen to 104.

March 23 is Vicky’s “D Day” as she will have a scan and if it finds that her tumours are the same size or have grown despite treatment, “that’s the end of that”, Vicky said.

“I will be taken off (the trial) that day, pretty much”.

She explained that the trial is very expensive - roughly $1m per person - so if it is not seen to be working, another potentially suitable candidate will be sought instead.

When Vicky first spoke to Ray D’Arcy in her first RTÉ interview in 2018, she expressed her wish to still be alive for her son Darragh’s 10th birthday. This is a feat she accomplished last Friday.

“It was a tough weekend, I have to say. Last weekend was hard for the birthday as I wanted to be there.

“I’m always a logical, rational person and I was able to say I am not there for this one, but the reason I am over here is so that I can be there for the next one and the next one,” she said.

Vicky said the kindness of strangers has been “fantastic” since she arrived in the US and said she has stayed with a friend originally from Tipperary two to three nights a week. “I just can’t get over it,” Vicky said.

The Limerick native said she had one bad reaction to the treatment in which she went to hospital due to dehydration but said she has been okay since and that it didn’t compare to some other side effects she suffered in the past.

“I’m good this week, really good this week, thank God.

“I’ve had three doses already, I’m here nearly seven weeks and I get treatment every two weeks. I go in for treatment one day every two weeks and the rest of my time is my own. But after the first few treatments I have been recovering from side effects.

“I had a couple of rough days and ended up having to go to hospital to go on a drip as I was so dehydrated from vomiting, but they have adjusted my anti-sickness medication and that seems to be working. I had treatment last Tuesday and so far I have been fine all week, touch wood.

“It’s just a matter of the body getting used to new drugs and finding the right treatment for side effects. I think I’m getting there,” Vicky said.

She said she has been through worse side effects from cancer drugs with one of her first doses making her so ill that she “thought I was dying I was so bad”.

“I had a really high temperature, I was hallucinating and Jim said I was shaking out so much he thought I was having a seizure. It was actually worse for him as I don’t remember half the night. The poor man, God love him,” Vicky laughed.

Speaking about her fame due to her campaigning, Vicky said it “felt quite strange” and admitted that it “never really sat well” with her.

“I never did any of this to become famous. That was never my intention. I just wanted to highlight something which I felt people needed to know about, but then to help people,” she said.

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