Laura Brennan is one of Ireland's leading patient advocates, having worked with the HSE since last year to support parents to choose HPV Vaccination for their daughters.
Today, as HSE teams are in schools beginning this year's vaccination campaign, Laura spoke at a HSE media event in Dublin with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD. Laura was also presented with the first ever Patient Advocacy Medal by the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland.
Here's the speech Laura gave at today's event:
'Just over five months ago I attended a similar event where a campaign video for the HPV Campaign which I was involved in was shown for the first time. It got a bit of attention and enjoyed my chat on the couch with Ryan Tubridy and the craic in Coppers after.'
'I’ve done lots of media interviews and have spoken at many HPV related events. I was very lucky to be invited to Copenhagen by the WHO to consult with them about HPV advocacy.'
They’re interested in what we’ve done here in Ireland and I’m proud to see my little country leading the way on this – the HSE is using real stories like mine to fight the lies and rumours and it’s working.
'65% isn’t where I want the vaccine rates to be – as you all know, I won’t be happy until as many of our girls are protected as possible and until boys are included in the vaccination programme - but at least it’s going in the right direction. It shows that once again the people of Ireland are listening to reason and using reality and evidence as a basis for their decision making.'
'I just want to be clear that I have no vested interest in promoting this vaccine. In fact, as highlighted recently, it’s brought me some negative attention that I could have done without. I have cancer as a result of a common virus and that brings with it no shame.'
'What interests me is letting the parents of Ireland know that their child doesn’t have to die of a HPV related cancer that the vaccine protects against like I will.'
'What interests me is arming parents with the information they need to make the right decision for their daughters and soon sons hopefully.'
'If I could, I would sit down with every parent in the country who has to make this decision and tell them what I’ve gone through but I‘m afraid I don’t have time for that. I’ll probably be dead in a couple of years – robbed of my life, my parents robed of a daughter by this horrible preventable illness.'
If I could though, I would tell them that they can protect their daughters by giving her this safe and effective, well tested vaccine.
'I’m not a parent, that’s something I will never have the joy of experiencing, but as someone with terminal cancer, I do understand fear. I understand that parents are afraid but I’ll quote Dr Ciara Kelly once again when I say, you’re afraid of the wrong thing.'
'You don’t want to have to look into your child’s eyes and tell them you could have saved then from a HPV related cancer because even if it doesn’t end their life, it will leave them damaged for life – damaged from cancer and damaged from treatment.'
'My only reason for getting involved is my desire to save other families from going through this, to save other parents from watching their child suffer from a preventable illness, caused by a virus which the majority of people in this room have had or will have at some point in their life. I was just unlucky that I caught a cancer causing strain of the virus and my body couldn’t fight it off and that’s why I got cervical cancer.'
'So what’s changed since my campaign video was launched and I was on the Late Late show? Well, I’m still having the craic…..'
'Really though, I’m five months older. My cancer is five months older. It’s getting stronger and I’m getting weaker.'
'I’ve always said that I won’t stop until my body does and I mean every word of it but what’s hypothetical for you in real for me. I’m facing my death and the reason is a virus that your child doesn’t have to get.'
'I’ll be gone in a few years. Once I’m gone there is nothing more I can do about it so I hope you all listen to me while you have the chance.'
'This vaccine saves lives. It could have saved mine but it can save yours.'