Laura Brennan has died at the age of 26.
As one of the country’s leading HPV vaccine campaigners the Ennis woman had been raising awareness to save lives up until her death on Wednesday at University Hospital Limerick. Her reposal will take place on Tuesday (March 26th) with the funeral mass on Wednesday morning. In 2016 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and although prospects of a recover were positive the cancer spread to her lymph nodes which ultimately meant there was no cure to save her life.
Earlier this month she was honoured as the 2019 Clare Person of the Year, an accolade her family were particularly proud of as well as her achievements in carving out such a strong legacy while fighting a terminal illness. UCD previously conferred the Clare woman with a honorary doctorate late last year.
A statement released by the Brennan family spoke of how their loved one wished to make a difference. “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. Laura used her voice, her generosity and her energy to help parents to make informed choices and protect their daughters from cervical cancer. She wanted to make a difference, and use the time that she had to right what she felt was a great wrong. As we say goodbye to Laura, we would ask that our privacy be respected to allow us time to adjust and grieve for her”.
Interim HSE Director General, Anne O’Connor expressed her condolences to the family while praising the “enormous time and energy” Laura devoted to campaigning to support HPV vaccination and preventing cervical cancer. “We are all deeply saddened to learn of Laura’s death, and we feel immense gratitude and admiration for her and her 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. Laura came forward when she was first diagnosed with terminal cancer and our mission became hers. We know that Laura has made a difference, and will have saved lives through her great effort and her tremendous generosity of spirit”.
According to the HSE, since Laura made contact with them in 2017, uptake of the HPV vaccine has increased by 19%, from 51% in 2017 to 70% today. In March 2019, over 22,000 girls got the HPV vaccine to protect them from cervical cancer.
Minister for Health, Simon Harris said, “Laura was an incredible young woman and a powerful campaigner. 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.”
Cllr Mary Howard who nominated Laura for both Clare Person of the Year and a Civic Reception spoke of the woman she was proud to be a friend of. “For the past twelve months Laura worked tirelessly using her voice to educate us about the HPV Vaccine. I believe the recent reports that the uptake has increased to 70% is absolutely due to Laura’s advocacy. Laura was sweet, gentle and kind, she had a childlike innocence and sense of wonder. At Christmas she was looking forward to visiting Santa in Bunratty with her parents Larry and Bernie and her big brothers.
I was honoured to nominate her for the Clare Person of the Year along with a Civic Reception over the last couple of months. Laura was a true warrior, she kept on fighting the good fight against the monster that is cancer. Today Cancer won. Laura, I promise you we will keep on promoting the HPV Vaccine in your memory”.
In April last year she appeared on The Late Late Show and explained why she was such an active advocate for the HPV vaccine.
A book of condolence in Laura’s memory will be opened by Clare County Council on Thursday morning.
She is survived by her parents Larry and Bernie, three brothers, extended family and friends.