Eileen Rushe with her son Seamus. Photo: Seamus Farrelly.
The past three years has been a tough time for Termonfeckin woman Eileen Rushe. In July 2017 she lost her partner John Byrne after he suffered an epileptic seizure. Then, just before Christmas 2018, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
But Eileen is a fighter and rather than give in to the disease she remained positive and wrote a blog called “Cervical Cancer is a Bitch” during her stay in St. Luke’s Hospital.
Back in January Eileen told Drogheda Life: “I will not pretend to understand the science behind the HPV vaccine other than to say the research supports it and it has been used around the world on both boys and girls for years.
“If giving the vaccine prevents my son Seamus from one single day of the treatment I am undergoing I feel there really is no choice…”
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Thankfully, after months of gruelling treatment, which sent her into early menopause, Eileen received the all-clear in June - just a week after Seamus’ Confirmation.
True to form, Eileen who developed cervical cancer from contracting the HVP virus is appealing to all parents to avail of this vaccine which is now being offered to boys this year.
"The HSE has started sending out the HPV information packs and I'd appeal to parents to read it. I got cervical cancer from the HPV virus and last week my son Seamus (13) has started first year in St Oliver's Community College so I've no hesitation in signing him up for the vaccine," she said.
"I have been taken aback at the amount of parents that I've met who are apprehensive about getting their sons vaccinated.
"Cancers such as oesophageal cancer decreased with the decline of smoking but there has been a huge increase in it again, linked to HPV.
"If parents don't avail of it in first year and change their minds, they'll have to pay for the vaccine themselves.
"Getting vaccinated en masse will stop the spread of HPV infections and there is no point in just vaccinating women to stop it. People need to research the pros and cons.
"It's an individual choice and it's not an easy decision to make but it's the right one. Look at my son. If I can do anything to stop him getting cancer, I would and I can now so I will.
"If the cancer doesn't kill you, it will lead to many side effects. I've been left infertile and in early menopause. I'm lucky to have had a child but many women my age haven't had any kids yet and this cancer could prevent that."
While the vaccine has been widely available to teenage girls in Ireland since 2010, this month is the first time boys in their first year of secondary school will be offered the treatment as part of the school vaccination programme.
According to the HSE, the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infection in girls can cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, throat, head and neck.
In boys, the sexually transmitted infection can cause cancer of the anus, throat, penis, head and neck and can also cause genital warts in both boys and girls.
In Ireland, over 400 cases of HPV related cancer are diagnosed each year, say the HSE who add the vaccine is most effective in young people between 9 and 15 years old, the HSE say.