Vicky Phelan leads tributes to ‘amazing’ Laura

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan says HPV vaccine campaigner Laura Brennan’s legacy will be that she saved thousands of lives.

"I would love if we could get a figure on that so her parents would know how amazing Laura was and what she achieved,” said Ms Phelan.

“But there is no doubt in my mind that she will have saved thousands of women from the fate that she had to endure.”

Ms Phelan, who was speaking on RTÉ radio, said Laura did not want any other women to go through what she was facing into.

The two campaigners had met a number of times and kept in touch by telephone and social media.

“What I was struck by was her positivity,” said Ms Phelan. “For a girl so young facing into a terminal illness, I could not get over how positive she was. That really stuck with me.”

She did not think Laura realised the effect she had on people and was glad that she got to see that the uptake of the HPV vaccine had increased from 50% to 70% since she had started fronting the HSE’s campaign.

“I am glad that she got to see that because that is all down to Laura,” said Ms Phelan, adding that she did not think she could have achieved the same impact as Laura, 26, because she was so young.

“The young people need to see that this disease affects very young women as well,” said Ms Phelan.

“She was a beautiful-looking girl, very glamorous. And I think she really hit the message home that this is an illness that can hit young girls as well.”

Ms Phelan said her 13-year-old daughter received her first dose of the HPV vaccine last October and is due to have her second shot in the next couple of weeks.

“I did not hesitate because unfortunately, cervical cancer can be hereditary,” she said. “There was always a chance my daughter could get it. It can run down family lines.”

Her daughter also has a congenital disorder, a disease that affects her immune system.

If she is willing to give her daughter the HPV vaccine, all parents should be doing the same thing, she said.

Ms Phelan said she is in the unfortunate situation of having to hear about women dying from cervical cancer, between Emma Mhic Mhathúna, Julie O’Reilly, Orla Church, Alice Taylor, and now Laura, and that it is very upsetting.

“It just goes to show that if anything good can come out of this, it is for women to see how serious this illness is,” she said.

All of these women have needlessly died. You can prevent this by going for screening and having your children vaccinated. That is my message and that was Laura’s message.

Irish Cancer Society chief executive Averil Power said it took Laura a huge amount of courage and strength for her to contact the HSE and offer to front its HPV vaccine campaign.

Ms Power said Laura used the time she had left to help so many people. She was determined to make sure that no other woman would have to go through what she endured.

“Thanks to Laura the vaccine uptake has increased dramatically,” she said.

Ms Power said Laura had an incredible selfless determination like Ms Phelan to use her experience and voice to help other women.

Earlier, broadcaster Ryan Tubridy paid an emotional tribute to Laura during his radio show.

“There’s something about Laura Brennan,” he said.

There’s something about that positivity that will linger a long time on the minds of many of us.

“People are saying that they got their son or daughter vaccinated because of Laura; that’s a win for Laura, that’s a win for her family, for her legacy.”

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