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Cervical cancer support group set up in wake of controversy

CervicalCheck scandal survivors Vicky Phelan, Lorraine Walsh and Stephen Teap whose wife Irene died from the disease establish a new support group.

Stephen Teap, Lorraine Walsh and Vicky Phelan at the launch of 221+ Cervical Check Patient Support Group, held at Farmleigh, Dublin on Sunday.
Stephen Teap, Lorraine Walsh and Vicky Phelan at the launch of 221+ Cervical Check Patient Support Group, held at Farmleigh, Dublin on Sunday.
Image: Paul Sherwood

A NEW SUPPORT group has been established to support women and their families affected by the CervicalCheck scandal. 

The body has been founded by patients Vicky Phelan and Lorraine Walsh and Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died from the disease. 

They are among at least 221 women whose smear test results were read incorrectly

221+ CervicalCheck patient support group said in a statement that it aims to “represent the current known and unknown women and families impacted by the CervicalCheck controversy”. 

Its main objective will be to meet the needs of patients directly affected by the CervicalCheck controversy and their next of kin by providing information, advice and support in a structured and confidential manner.

The launch comes just days after two of the women affected by the scandal died. Emma Mhic Mhathúna and a woman who wished to remain anonymous lost their battle with the disease in the last week. 

Speaking at the launch on Sunday Lorraine Walsh described how she is “riddled with thoughts of what if” following the discovery of her missed test results. 

The day I found out I had cancer was what I thought was the worst day of my life! I was wrong; the day I found out that I shouldn’t have got cancer had my smear been read properly was the worst day of my life! 
I am now riddled every day with the awful thoughts of “what if?” which has shaken me to my very core and challenged me mentally and emotionally beyond any physical or emotional challenges that I ever experienced before. 

Walsh said the support she received from “fellow women and families involved in this disaster” has been of huge comfort. 

She went on to say:

We launch our official support group 221+ so we can continue to support each other through this very difficult time, it is soothing to be among people that understand my heartache as they are dealing with their own pain.

Vicky Phelan whose court case brought the controversy to public prominence said: 

The CervicalCheck scandal has been traumatic for the 221+ patients and their families.
Part of the process in healing from trauma is connecting with others who have been affected. One of the main functions of the 221+ Patient Support Group is to provide a safe, open, caring, supportive environment to allow this healing to take place.

Carrie Smith has been appointed as the group’s coordinator and its website will offer an ask the expert service, for women and their families to seek advice. 

The group will offer support in a number of areas:

  • Fertility                                       
  • Access to Legal Advice
  • Sexuality                                       
  • Access to Financial Supports
  • Bereavement                             
  • Psycho-oncology
  • Family Counseling                               
  • Clinical trials & drugs 
  • Communicating with children             
  • Coping with fatigue & side effects

The body is funded by the Department of Health and will be run independently of the HSE. It is supported by  the Marie Keating Foundation, Irish Cancer Society and Irish Patients Association.

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About the author:

Aisling O'Rourke

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