Family of Eileen Rushe to continue work of HPV vaccine campaigner

Family of Eileen Rushe to continue work of HPV vaccine campaigner

Eileen Rushe (centre) with her mum Mary and sister Siobháin (left) who said: "I think people should count themselves lucky if they got to meet Eileen because there is no-one on earth like her or ever will be again. And if you never met her, go and read her blog and as she would say herself, make sure you check your bits."

The family of a much-loved HPV vaccine campaigner have promised to continue her work on women's health issues on the first anniversary of her death from cervical cancer.

Brave Eileen Rushe received "heartfelt apologies" from the HSE for failings in her care at the Louth County Hospital just months before her passing on September 28 last year.

Despite the cancer spreading to her brain, the 35-year-old continued to campaign for the HPV vaccine until her final days and always spoke about feeling blessed to have an amazing family and community around her.

That community has rallied around her family and teenage son Seamus since her death, leaving her loved ones "overwhelmed" by the kindness and support shown to them even 12 months on. Her sister Siobháin and self-professed 'partner-in-crime' said Eileen will always live on in so many hearts.

Eileen was diagnosed with stage three cancer in December 2018 - despite being monitored for 18 months when abnormal cells showed up during a routine smear test in 2017.

After beating the cancer initially, it returned aggressively, spreading to her spine and lungs. She had always maintained that if a common procedure to remove cervical tissue called Ltletz had been administered, she would likely not have received a death sentence.

Siobháin has revealed that she and Eileen had intended to start a website to provide women with a platform to discuss all topics and issues affecting them.

Eileen Rushe with her sister Siobháin: "My parents, Jim and Mary are finding it hard but as a mother now, I realise that it's not natural to bury your child."
Eileen Rushe with her sister Siobháin: "My parents, Jim and Mary are finding it hard but as a mother now, I realise that it's not natural to bury your child."

"We wanted to start a female empowerment site to allow women to talk about everything affecting them. It was Eileen's idea and we were going to add research and podcasts with health experts," she said.

"I'm hoping to get the strength in the coming months to start it in her memory and part of that will be to continue pushing the HPV vaccine for teenage girls and boys.

"I'm so proud of her that she was still so selfless that she really wanted to prevent other people in the world from going through what our family did and so she became a champion of the vaccine.

"I've buried my head in the sand over the last year, hoping she would come back but now I have to face the reality that it's not going to happen. As a family, we each have our own windows of sadness but we have been overwhelmed at the continuous support of so many. 

I was told that after a few months, that support would stop and we would be on our own, but that hasn't happened. Not because of who we are, but because of who Eileen was. She did so much good when she was alive and always kept smiling that people want to keep her memory alive.

"I have two boys who are 18 months and three months old and I find it so hard that they will never know her and she never got to meet my baby. I was 16 when Eileen's son Seamus was born and I lived with her in Galway so we went everywhere together. I know that if she was alive, she would be the first to come with me and the boys on days out.

"If I could be half the person she was or if my sons could be half the people their aunt was, then I'd be so, so proud.

"My parents, Jim and Mary are finding it hard but as a mother now, I realise that it's not natural to bury your child. It's been just an awful year, if I'm honest. Most of your time is spent pretending that it hasn't happened but then we see this teenager (Seamus) and you can see how heartbroken he is every single day.

"Yes, we are all so angry at what happened to her and we feel it every day but it's not going to bring her back. She wasn't bitter - the only thing she worried about was leaving her son and he is understandably finding it tough. He's such a great lad and such a credit to her. We just have to try and help him through it as much as we can.

"I think people should count themselves lucky if they got to meet Eileen because there is no-one on earth like her or ever will be again. And if you never met her, go and read her blog and as she would say herself, make sure you check your bits."

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