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Cervical Cancer

'In their eyes I'll see pain... because their daughter is deteriorating in front of them'

Laura Brennan from Co Clare spoke about living with incurable cervical cancer, and why she wanted to feature in the HPV vaccine campaign.

The Late Late Show / YouTube

Nobody knows what’s going to happen to them on any given day, and nobody knows what future cancer treatment there will be. I’m not throwing in the towel.

A YOUNG WOMAN from Clare who has been diagnosed with “incurable” cervical cancer at 24 years of age has said that she’s become involved in the campaign to raise awareness of the HPV vaccine to try to save lives.

Although Laura Brennan went through treatment for her condition, and was predicted to have a good chance of recovering, the cancer spread to her lymph nodes. This meant that there was no treatment for her condition, other than palliative chemotherapy that would prolong Laura’s life.

One doctor estimated that she would have another five years to live.

“I’m not counting down the days, I don’t feel there’s a ticking bomb over my head,” she said. “I have a life to live, and I’ve craic to be had so that’s what I am going to do.”

Laura told Ryan Tubridy on last night’s Late Late Show how she’s become involved in the HSE’s campaign to increase the uptake rate of the HPV vaccine, which can prevent the development of cervical cancer.

She said that after she was diagnosed, she wrote to the HSE about her story and said “Look, if there’s any way my story will stop this from happening to any other girl then I want to be 100% behind it”.

The government has a free scheme to give the vaccine for free for girls who are attending secondary school. But because of misinformation spread on social media about the vaccine, the uptake rate fell from 87% in 2014 to 51% in 2016.

After being asked how she was, Laura said she’s “asked that question a lot”.

“[This morning] I was happy out, I jumped out of bed – in no pain is always ‘life is great’.

But then I thought about someday the treatment might stop working. And sometime in the future there might not be a cure for my cancer, and then I will be in pain and I won’t be able to get out of bed, and I’ll have to move back home.

“And I know my parents will take care of me, like they always do, they’ll come up and they’ll ask me am I ok, and I’ll be in pain. But I know I’ll tell them ‘I’m grand’ or I’ll crack a joke, and they’ll give me a smile back.

But in their eyes I’ll see pain… because their daughter is deteriorating in front of them. Pain because I’m in pain and there’s nothing they can do about it.

“And that is why I got behind the campaign, because I don’t want any mother, father, sister, brother, friends or family to lose someone to such a horrible illness which is cervical cancer.”

The human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to a number of cancers, including cervical, penile, throat and anal cancers in men and women.

Every year in Ireland, 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer – of that number 90 women will die of the disease, and others will require invasive surgery.

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