Vicky Phelan will be remembered for her bravery and her fighting spirit – but she was always a mother first.
This day last year, Ireland was united in grief after Vicky finally lost her life to cervical cancer.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, her friend and fellow campaigner Stephen Teap spoke about her life, her fight for women’s healthcare and the impact she had on the country as a whole.
He said he first met Vicky a couple of weeks after she famously stood in front of the courthouse in Dublin and told her story to the world.
'Rock of support'
He said she quickly became a close friend and a “rock of support” to him so soon after he had lost his wife Irene to cervical cancer.
“She got to know my two kids and I got to know her family quite well also and while things were serious at times on the campaign trail, there were good times as well and fond memories that we shared with both our families,” he said.
Mr Teap said Vicky was “so brave that she hid a lot” of what she was going through from the public.
“I remember early on, this was just after I had gone public with our story, Vicky and I were invited to Leinster House to speak at the Public Accounts Committee meeting,” he said.
“I remember at the time just sitting there and she was just popping and putting pills into this glass.
“They were just fizzing up – Solpadine - and I remember, asking her, ‘How much pain are you in?’
“She was in absolute agony, but to look at her and to hear her speak that day, you wouldn't think it at all.
“As she would have said, there were good days and there were bad days and she would get tired, but I think the fight, for her, motivated her to keep her going for so long as she did.
“I suppose it was a way for her to ignore the seriousness about what she was going through, particularly in those early days, you know?”
He said some of his fondest memories of Vicky were off the campaign trail, when he brought his family on a camping trip to West Cork.
“It is those kinds of trips away from the spotlight where you just had Vicky on her own with her family and you have her just being Mum, you know?” he said.
“Everybody in the country has a different interpretation of Vicky, whether they got to know her through the media or standing in front of the courthouse or whether they were friends with her like I was - I think it's important to remember that she was always a mother first.
“It was watching her be Mum to her daughter Amelia, you know, their relationship was fab to witness. They were, it was just like one of them was looking in the mirror talking, they were very alike and then her son Darragh as well who is an absolute gem.
“She was always a mother first and you know, wife to Jim and of course, today now we'll be remembering everyone, all her family and her parents as well, John and Gaby, who are obviously missing a daughter today.”
Mr Teap said Vicky’s legacy is her strength and fighting spirit.
“I think it's just, in your darkest moments, being able to have the strength and the courage to stand up and not only stand up and fight for yourself and what for what you believe in, but also to represent others,” he said.
“While she was a victim, she didn't see herself as one; she was more of a fighter and I think that's what we all admired so much of Vicky Phelan.
“Her ability to fight, particularly as tough as it was for her and I think that's her biggest legacy – just the fight that she had in her.”
In memory of Vicky Phelan, seven high-profile Irish women get behind a special cervical screening initiative. Their call to action is '#ReadMyLips... choose screening - book a cervical screening test today.' https://t.co/KghrRc8Gug pic.twitter.com/vBf5taOQOh
— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) November 10, 2023
Mr Teap said it is fantastic to see the Irish Examiner running Vicky’s #ReadMyLips campaign this week and encouraged everyone to get involved and urge people to: 'Choose screening - book a cervical screening test today.'