‘There is a vaccine there that saves lives — please think about it,” urges Laura Brennan, 25, whose terminal cervical cancer diagnosis means her only option now is palliative chemotherapy.
The Clare woman is fronting the HSE’s latest HPV vaccination campaign. She contacted the health authority after being diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer.
“I am only 25 but there is no treatment that will cure my cancer, only treatment that will now prolong my life,” she said.
Laura did not get the HPV vaccine. It was not available in schools when she was a teenager so her parents did not have the choice.
“The reality is that now there is a vaccine that protects girls from getting this horrible disease,” she said.
Laura said no parent wants their daughter to get cervical cancer.
“If anything good comes from my situation, I hope that parents consider this — get the facts, get informed, and make the decision to get their daughters vaccinated,” said Laura. “The HPV vaccine saves lives. It could have saved mine.”
When Laura was diagnosed with cervical cancer just over a year ago, she was determined that it would not take over her life. In January 2017, she started her treatment plan, kept working in cosmetics, and was ecstatic when she got the all-clear.
“A few weeks later I knew something was not right,” she said.
She went to her consultant and complained of back pain. Tests revealed the cancer had spread and was no longer curable.
“Cervical cancer is not the best cancer to get,” said Laura. “Even when I was given the all-clear there was a good chance of it returning. I was in menopause at 24 and my body is permanently damaged by radiation. Now that it’s back, my only option is palliative chemotherapy that will not save my life, only extend it.
“I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me,” she said. “I really am blessed. I have the most loving, supportive kind family and friends.
“But my dad always said that no parent should outlive their child. I am not here to scaremonger but the reality is there is vaccine here to protect girls from getting cervical cancer and protect parents like mine from outliving their children.”
Now that she knows her fate, she also knows she can not keep her dreams alive.
“I am never going to be a regional manager, I may not be here to see my friends and family get married, and I will never have my own family.”
She urged parents to think of their children and not to let cervical cancer steal their dreams and lives.
“There is a vaccine there that saves lives,” she said. “Please think about it.”
Almost two in every three girls get the vaccine — the national uptake rate is now around 62%. It protects against seven out of 10 cancer-causing HPV virus types. In Ireland every year, 300 women develop cervical cancer and 90 die.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved