Vicky Phelan pictured with her husband Jim and children, Darragh, 7 and Amelia, 12
VICKY Phelan had her first infusion of Pembrolizumab on April 16, the week of her High Court case, after the HSE agreed to cover the costs.
“That will be ingrained on my brain forever,” Vicky recalls of April 16 as she sits in the Grill Bar and Restaurant of the Clayton Hotel.
“I was so ill that week I nearly didn’t go up and give evidence. I remember Cian (O’Carroll) and Siobhan (Ryan), the two solicitors ringing me to see would I be able to attend.
“Even Cian said to me last week, ‘Vicky you look so well now - we really were worried back then. I didn’t say it to you’. I had the look of someone who was ill - my skin and everything and I was in so much pain. My stomach was out so far that I was wearing maternity trousers. The tumour was 10cm so it was pushing everything else out.”
Pembrolizumab is administered intravenously over half an hour in St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin.
After only three doses there has been a notable shrinkage of Vicky’s tumours and she is no longer in any great pain.
She received her fourth dose of Pembrolizumab this Wednesday.
“I researched the drug - they weren’t offering it to me. Back in January, when in Limerick they offered me the palliative chemotherapy I asked them about clinical trials and other options. I did all the research myself. They gave me nothing. Where I have it - it’s not a nice place and it’s touching off all my organs. I really shouldn’t be as well as I am.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be that good,” she states. “I don’t know the exact percentage. I feel the improvement myself physically - from the size of my stomach to the fact that I am barely taking pain killers. I have a pain patch but I’m only on the low dose. And energy - sure I’m flying around the place again.”
The treatment, however, hasn’t been plain sailing with Vicky suffering an adverse reaction after her first dose, on the week of her High Court case.
“Myself and Jim drove home on Monday evening and I started to feel ill by the time we left. By the time we got home I was shivering and had a temperature.”
Vicky endured “a night from hell”.
“God love Jim,” she sighs, “I don’t remember half of it. By the end of Monday I still felt like crap but I didn’t feel that bad but on Tuesday I rang Cian and Siobhan to say there is no way I can go up on Thursday as I can’t get out of the chair.”
Vicky was experiencing severe pain, everywhere.
“I asked if I could go up another day but, generally, the first day the person taking the case would go up and give their evidence but Siobhan said, ‘Vicky, you are so good at telling your story, we can do it for you but it just won’t be the same. I don’t want to be putting pressure on you but see how you are going tomorrow - we will do whatever we have to do on Thursday - put you up in a hotel’. Jim was saying 'no way' as were my parents.”
Vicky started coming around a little bit on the Wednesday.
“I ring Siobhan when Jim was out of the room and said, ‘I’m going! Can you book a hotel so I can lie down afterwards?’
“ So I went and I’m glad I did.”