LAURA BRENNAN’S activism is still saving lives.
The 26-year old Clare woman died in March this year, 18 months after being diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer. She used the time she had left to campaign and raise awareness for cervical cancer, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the vaccine which can prevent it.
Her activism increased the uptake of the HPV vaccine by almost 20%-- from 51% in 2017 to 70% in 2019, and also encouraged women to go for regular smear tests once they turn 25 years old.
Upon her death, Minister for Health Simon Harris paid tribute to the activist, saying “The State owes her a debt of gratitude”.
People are still benefitting from Ms Brennan’s selfless campaign. It’s not unusual to see Irish women on twitter posting that they had been for a smear test and encouraging others to do the same, often making reference to the late activist.
One such woman who has been helped by Ms Brennan is Limerick woman Jennifer Purcell, a 25-year-old journalist who is based in London.
Ms Purcell is often active on Twitter, and her followers are used to reading updates about her day, but a few weeks ago the tweets took a different tone.
So instead of celebrating my 25th birthday today I spent it having surgery to remove part of my cervix for high grade pre-cancerous cells!
Real talk over on my insta story including smears, Laura Brennan and how you know your body better than anyone! #CervicalCancer pic.twitter.com/iqvl5ij7np
— Jennifer Purcell (@Jenniferpurc) June 21, 2019
She referenced Ms Brennan in the tweet and was staying positive as the high-grade cells were removed, a procedure which is done to prevent the abnormal cells from developing into cervical cancer. But two weeks later, Ms Brennan was referenced in another tweet.
Got some unexpected bad news today but all I can say is thank you to Laura Brennan ❤️
— Jennifer Purcell (@Jenniferpurc) July 10, 2019
Last night, Ms Purcell took to twitter again to say that the smear test and subsequent procedure revealed she had Stage 1 cervical cancer.
Because she had gone for her smear test, the cancer was caught early, and she said that she will recover and be able to go on to have a family in the future.
6 weeks go I had surgery for high grade pre-cancerous cells.
2 weeks later I was diagnosed with stage 1 Cervical Cancer.
Today, I had more invasive surgery but luckily caught it very early & will be fine (and to have a family🤞🏻)
I just turned 25 - get your smear done! https://t.co/c3XWG7XW5O
— Jennifer Purcell (@Jenniferpurc) August 1, 2019
She was 25 when she had her test—the standard age recommended for women to have their first check. Had it gone unchecked it would have developed into a later stage, with far less chance of full recovery.
She encouraged every woman to get their smear test done.
Laura Brennan, Jennifer Purcell and countless women like them are using their voice to continue to raise awareness around HPV, the vaccine which can prevent it and the procedure which can treat it.
A ten minute test can save lives.
Booking your test is easy—it can be done in any GP office.