AS THE final chance for young people to get free vaccination against a virus which causes cervical and other cancers, one Limerick woman who missed that chance by just a few months revealed her horror at being diagnosed with the disease.
Limerick woman Jennifer Purcell has been a strong advocate for the HPV vaccine since her brush with cervical cancer in 2019.
Her message to young people is to get protected in order to avoid serious illness later in life.
“I was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I turned 25. It was during the summer of 2019, I didn’t get to celebrate my birthday over drinks or have a party with friends. I spent my birthday in hospital having surgery to remove cancer from my cervix,” Jennifer said.
“At the time, Laura Brennan was running an extensive campaign for the HPV vaccine, as she was dying of cervical cancer at just 26. I was in awe of her relentlessness and resilience.
“I started doing some digging and realised the HPV vaccine was rolled out in secondary school the year after I finished, so I had just missed the window.
“Part of me felt a real sense of unease, an unease I couldn’t shake. Our bodies have a way of speaking to us, a sixth sense or a gut feeling that something just isn’t right”.
After what Jennifer thought was a routine cervical screening, she got a letter stating that she had highly abnormal precancerous cells. This was followed with a colposcopy and LLETZ treatment to remove the cells.
“Two weeks later, I got that dreaded call. I had Stage 1 Cervical Cancer at just 25 years old.
“I stared blankly at the booklet, reading the words ‘understanding cervical cancer’ over and over again as the doctor muttered my action plan in the background.
“I had prepared myself for the worst, but I was lucky enough to have caught it so swiftly that the surgery removed it all. I thank Laura every day for potentially saving my life.”
Jennifer and the HSE are urging young men and women to get the life-saving HPV vaccine as the Laura Brennan HPV vaccine catch-up campaign draws to a close in the coming weeks.
With free vaccinations ending on December 31 for men aged 21 and younger and women aged 24 and younger. Appointments and further information can be gotten on HPV.ie.
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause approximately 90 per cent of cervical cancers, 90-95 per cent of HPV-related anal cancer, and 90 per cent of genital warts.