Vicky Phelan says that mums need to prioritise their own health and talk to each other more
"If no one talks about this, then how are they supposed to know that it's not something that you should just live with?"
By going public after settling a court action in April 2018, Vicky Phelan broke the cervical cancer screening scandal that rocked the country. In the weeks and months that followed her brave stand, it was revealed that she was just one of 221 women who had not been told that the results of smear tests previously given as 'clear' were overturned by a clinical audit.
Vicky's own diagnosis is terminal. Although she is receiving life-prolonging treatment, she does't know how much the she has left with her adored children, Amelia and Darragh.
They were a big motivation in Vicky writing her newly-released memoir, Overcoming, as Vicky told HerFamily:
"The children were my first priority. I wanted to write the book so that they'd understand why I'm always gone to Dublin or gone to wherever. My son is too young to understand why I'm always gone right now, and he gets upset. So it will be a good way for him, when he's old enough, to understand why Mammy did what she did.
"But also for them to understand me as a person, that I wasn't just their mammy. That I had a life."
Vicky says that her message to other mothers out there is to look after their own health, so that they can be there to look after their children as they grow up.
"We always put ourselves second. Especially when you're a mother – you always put your kids first. You kind of forget about yourself, and that's the danger with women. We're very poor at looking after our own bodies. We just put up with a lot of stuff."
Now a public figure through her campaigning on women's health issues Vicky says that she has met many mothers who are quietly suffering from health problems with no support. She encourages women to talk to each other, and their doctors, to bring these issues out into the open.
"The amount of women who have come to me and spoken about, cervical cancer aside, just horrendous problems and side effects after having a baby – lots of stitches, incontinence, unable to have sex for two years. That's not normal. Women need to talk about these things and, actually, their gynaecologists and doctors need to accept some responsibility and say 'there has to be a better way'.
"If no one talks about this, then how are they supposed to know that it's not something that you should just live with? That's the problem, we need to be more open and vocal publicly so that people feel that they can go privately and talk about it with their doctors."
You can join Vicky Phelan for live talks, supported by HerFamily, about her remarkable story in Cork and Limerick this month. Tickets are €20 and include a copy of Overcoming.
Overcoming by Vicky Phelan with Naomi Linehan, published by Hachette Ireland, is out now priced €14.99.