Tuesday 17 September 2019

Cervical cancer campaigner Laura Brennan dies at 26

The HSE confirmed that she died at University Hospital Limerick on Wednesday.

Laura Brennan, HPV vaccine advocate (HSE/PA)
Laura Brennan, HPV vaccine advocate (HSE/PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

One of Ireland’s leading cervical cancer campaigners, Laura Brennan, has died aged 26.

The HSE confirmed that Ms Brennan died at University Hospital Limerick on Wednesday.

A statement from the Brennan family said: “Laura was a light in the life of everyone who knew her; a wonderful daughter, sister and friend.

“We are lost without her.

“We are all incredibly proud of the work she did in the last 18 months to help protect other young women like herself from the cancer that has taken her life today.”

Ms Brennan first contacted the HSE in 2017 when she was diagnosed at 24, and publicly campaigned to support HPV vaccination and preventing cervical cancer from then on.

Since Ms Brennan went public, uptake of the HPV vaccine has increased almost 20 percentage points, from 51% in 2017 to 70% today.

Minister for Health Simon Harris paid tribute to the dedicated campaigner.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of Laura’s passing.

“Laura was an incredible young woman and a powerful campaigner,” Mr Harris said.

“Despite her illness, she continued her advocacy and thanks in no small part to her sheer determination, the uptake of the HPV vaccine has increased among young women.

“The State owes her a debt of gratitude.

“As a person, she was kind, funny and full of life. Her enthusiasm was infectious.

“Every time I met Laura or spoke with her, I was inspired by her.

“Amazing doesn’t do justice to her or her courage.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends.”

Anne O’Connor, interim HSE director general, expressed her condolences to the Brennan family.

“Laura has defined courage and generosity as she supported our work to ensure girls get the HPV vaccine, and are protected from this terrible cancer.

“We know that Laura has made a difference, and will have saved lives through her great effort and her tremendous generosity of spirit.”

Ms Brennan was honoured at many events during her years of campaigning and advocacy, receiving the inaugural Patient Advocate Medal from the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, and was recently named Clare Person of the Year.

This vaccine saves lives. It could have saved mine but it can save yours Laura Brennan

She was given an honorary doctorate by UCD in acknowledgement of her advocacy work.

At that time, Ms Brennan said she wanted to use her voice for the good of others.

“I found my voice about a year and a half ago when I felt compelled to join the campaign to increase the number of girls receiving the HPV vaccine,” she said.

“When I did so, I joined the voices of all the HPV advocates in the country, along with the HSE and the HPV alliance, and together, our voices became louder.

“Loud enough so that people could hear us.

“And thankfully, not only did they listen, they have started to act and that is the only reward I need, that parents agree to get their girls and boys vaccinated against this virus that is so common, so destructive and so preventable.

“This vaccine saves lives.

“It could have saved mine but it can save yours.”

Irish President Michael D Higgins said he was greatly saddened to hear of Laura’s death.

“Laura impressed so very many with her campaigning, and her work as a patient advocate has had a real and positive effect on countless young women across the country,” he said in a statement said.

Clare County Council will open a book of condolence in memory of Laura on Thursday in the Aras Contae an Chlair, Ennis.

The mayor of Clare, councillor Michael Begley, has invited members of the public to sign the book and mark Laura’s legacy as “an inspiring and courageous advocate and ambassador for the HPV vaccination programme.”

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