Monday 21 October 2019

'In their eyes I’ll see pain because their daughter is deteriorating' - Laura Brennan wowed the Late Late audience talking about her incurable cancer

Laura, who has incurable cancer, spoke passionately about her support for the vaccine on The Late Late Show

Laura Brennan on The Late Late Show
Laura Brennan on The Late Late Show
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

A young woman who is battling incurable cancer spoke passionately about why she is advocating for the HPV vaccine on Friday night's Late Late Show.

Laura Brennan (25) from Ennis, Co Clare, features in the HSE's campaign to highlight how the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects girls from developing cervical cancer when they are adults.

Laura was diagnosed with cervical cancer stage 2B at 24 years of age after she attended her doctor with irregular bleeding.  After her GP examined her cervix she was sent straight to A&E and spent a week in hospital having tests before she was given her diagnosis.

"I'm so nosy, I have to know everything, so any chance I got I'd have a sneak at my medical file," she told host Ryan Tubridy, adding that she then looked up information on reputable cancer websites and "put two and two together".

She knew before her diagnosis what stage cancer she had and what her treatment plan would be.  She had 28 sessions of radiation, which she received every morning before she left for work as an area manager for a cosmetics brand.

"I was determined that cancer wasn't going to change my life and not going to take over my life," she said.

Two months after her treatment ended Laura was given the all clear and she celebrated with a few drinks with her family; "I actually don't think there's any better occasion, there's no better reason to celebrate".

Laura then bought a house and a Maltese puppy and started a new job working locally, managing a beauty salon in Ennis.  However, she felt something was not right and suspected her cancer had returned.

After a visit to her GP she was sent for a PET scan and two weeks later she attended an appointment with her consultant alone to hear the results.

"I didn't tell my parents about a lot of appointments and they used to kill me afterwards," explained Laura.  "I went alone and we sat down and I remember him sitting across from me and he said, 'Laura, you're right, your cancer is back'.

"I didn't have any real emotion, because I kind of knew it and he said, 'Laura, do you know what this means?'  And I said, 'I do doctor' and he said, 'What does it mean?' and I said, 'It's no longer curable' and he said, 'How do you feel about that?  Why aren't you upset?'  I said, 'Doctor there are people leaving their houses every morning in their car and without any warning their life is taken.  Children are dying of cancer every day, I have cancer but I'm here today, what reason do I have to be upset?'

The Late Late Show audience applauded Laura for her attitude, and her bravery was described as inspirational on social media.

She revealed that after getting a second opinion, the doctor revealed she has between 2 and five years to live, although she is healthy otherwise and hopes to have five.

"I'm not counting down the days," she added.  "I don't feel like there's a ticking bomb over my head.  Nobody knows what's going to happen to them in any given day and anything can come out in the future - nobody knows what the future holds. Even though I have incurable cancer I'm not throwing in the towel and saying I'm going up to bed, bawling my eyes out, saying 'poor me'.  I've a life to live and there's craic to be had."

Laura has just finished a round of palliative chemo and is waiting to find out its impact.  She has not let her diagnosis stop her from living life, however, and is working three days a week on the Estee Lauder counter in Debenhams. 

Getting involved with the HSE's campaign was about preventing this situation from happening to other families.

"I thought about some day when the treatment might stop working, some time in the future there might not be a cure, 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," she said. 

"I know my parents will take good care of me.  They'll come up and ask me am I okay.  I'll be in pain but I'll say I'm grand and crack a joke.  But in their eyes I'll see pain, 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's why I got behind this campaign.  I don't want any mother, father, sister, brother, friends or family to lose someone from such a horrible illness which is cervical cancer which, thanks to a screening programme and the HPV vaccine, is now preventable."

Asked about what she would say to parents who are wary of having their daughters receive the vaccine, Laura said it is "natural to be scared" but advised them to get the "full information" from "reputable websites" like, She added, "If there is something on it you're not sure about go to your GP.  At the end of the day it's a medical issue.  Speak to medical professionals."

You can watch Laura's interview on RTE Player.


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