It’s difficult to put into words the life-changing effect the beautiful late Laura Brennan has had on so many.
Heroic, luminous and brave are only some of the words used to describe her but what made her particularly special was her selfless devotion to the health of the women of Ireland before she sadly passed away in March this year. It was only fitting that Irish Tatler honours this extraordinary young woman.
A tireless campaigner
Hailing from Limerick, Laura was only 24-years-old when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer stage 2B. She was declared cancer-free in 2016, only for it to return a few months later. Since her diagnoses, she tirelessly devoted her time and energy - despite battling her own illness - to raising awareness of the HPV vaccine and campaigning, urging young women to participate in the CervicalCheck screening programme, despite its recent controversies.
She was determined that every parent in Ireland who was about to make the decision whether their daughter was to be vaccinated against HPV, would hear her story first, working tirelessly to spread awareness of the facts. She spoke of her experience of some online abuse but this did not deter her and she remained remarkably positive throughout her illness.
The HPV vaccination rate in Ireland had fallen to 51 per cent so she began to collaborate with the HSE as the patient voice, to try and reverse the downward trend. After her death, the HSE said her work and activism in highlighting the vaccine led to a huge surge in young women taking it. The figure has now increased to 70 per cent.
Laura’s mother Bernie collected the award on her daughter's behalf in an impassioned, moving speech commemorating all of Laura’s efforts.
She was willful and determined and she had received the terminal diagnosis in late 2017. She was dogged in her efforts to use her voice for good and tell her story as much as she possibly could knowing that every time she did it had the potential to save a life.
“[Her documentary] Laura Brennan: This is Me was her parting gift to us as a family, to Ireland and to the world. Always so glamorous she now wanted people to see her at her weakest and give a simple message, that she was the reality of an unvaccinated child and parents can now protect their son or daughter from a similar fate.”
She is remembered as a light in the life of all who knew her.