HPV Vaccination Saves Lives

In a terrifying turn of events, many parents have been convinced not to take the ‘free’ opportunity to protect their daughters from the insidious disease that is cervical cancer. This year in Ireland alone, 280 young women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, of which 90 will die. The idea of chemotherapy, radiation, invasive surgery, infertility and death have somehow become overshadowed by the completely unfounded links to alleged side-effects such as chronic lethargy. Every health incident occurring any time near the immunisation (including things like car crashes) are documented. This information can be skewed and misrepresented to support a wide array of misguided claims!

WHAT IS HPV?

HPV or Human Papilloma Virus is an extremely common family viruses that are passed on during sex. Most people will get HPV infection in their lifetime and it usually clears up by itself. Some forms of the virus can also cause genital warts.

For women, ongoing HPV infections can cause abnormal changes in the lining of the cervix. These changes, if left untreated, can lead to cervical cancer. Most cervical cancers are caused by the HPV Virus. HPV has also been strongly linked to a number of other cancers in men and women including cancers of the anus, mouth and throat, vulva, vagina and penis.

HPV-caused cancers broken down by gender and cancer type

MY STORY:

Each year in Ireland, 6,500 women will need hospital treatment to remove pre-cancerous growths from their cervix! Having been through this treatment myself, let me tell you that it is invasive and horrendous. I didn’t have the luxury of prevention as the vaccine wasn’t introduced to schools until after I had left.

After ever worsening degrees of cell abnormality which likely have resulted in cervical cancer and death, I had a LLETZ procedure. This comprised of having a large part of my cervix burnt away in an effort to annihilate the precancerous cells and hopefully encouraging healthy cells grow in their place. This is often done under general aesthetic, but in my case, it was done under local. The internal injections beforehand actually being the most painful part and the overall experience which was very uncomfortable and undignified. The staff at The Coombes Colposcopy unit were incredible, with one nurse even holding my hand during the ordeal! I was reassured by their professionalism and kindness, but it is still not an experience that I would wish on anyone! Everything from the anxiety building up over the progressively worsening cells infiltrating my body, to the haemorrhage which saw me back in hospital 2 days after the procedure were abhorrent!

I’ve had abnormal smear tests since then and biopsies which are pretty unpleasant I’m their own right. The prognosis of cancer is something that deeply terrifies me, and, I’ll have to be extra vigilant for the rest of my life, but so far have been luckier then the women who find out too late and lose their lives.

VACCINE SIDE EFFECTS:

Social media is the unfortunate breeding ground for pseudoscientific opinions and fictitious nonsense to be laid out as fact. Real medical advice and hard scientific proof is too often ignored in favour of erroneous gossip, spread by those completely ignorant to the fields of medicine or science!

The vaccine is administered using a needle. As common sense might suggest, a little soreness and redness at the injection sight is quite common and short lived.

Another relatively common reaction is fainting. This is true of any vaccination and is due to the process rather then the vaccine itself! Fainting (syncope) is usually caused by stress or pain. Regardless of how calm a person seems externally, even subconscious fear can lead to changes in breathing leading to decreases in carbon dioxide and fainting. I would argue that the increased numbers of girls fainting post vaccination is in fact CAUSED BY the fear mongering of anti-vaxxer groups!

There is the a very small (approximately 3 in 1 million) chance of a serious anaphylactic response to this immunisation. Bear in mind though that a great number of inconspicuous things such as nuts are responsible for anaphylaxis, but this does not negate their health benefits for the general population. In fact, as some people unfortunately cannot receive the vaccine for medical reasons, herd immunity is all the more important to protect the general population.

There are many ambiguous links between the HPV vaccine and everything from premature menopausal side effects to lethargy. The alleged “side effects” logged, are no doubt true and hard for the girls and their families. HOWEVER, these are things which have occurred before the vaccine was ever offered and continue to occur whether the vaccine is administered or not. The only link is an unfortunate series of events occurring coincidently in a similar time frame.

THE REAL RISK:

I’ve read so many harrowing stories of cervical cancer victims. So often young mothers are given the prognosis. I’ve read of the horrific side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Young children forced to watch their mothers deteriorate into a skeletal ghost of their former selves. These mothers who are unsure whether they will even be around to watch their children grow up! Children loosing their mothers, husbands their wives, parents their daughters to cervical cancer… THIS CAN BE PREVENTED!!!

If you are the parent of a young girl, you have an opportunity to save her from such a fate! You don’t need to take my word for it. We all owe it to our children educate ourselves with the facts and to protect them. The real FACTS! Don’t succumb to rumour! If you are unsure, you can email factcheck@thejournal.ie or other reliable sources.

We live in an age where we can protect our children in more and more ingenious ways! I am so thankful for the advances in medicine which allow me protect my children in so many ways.

Thank you for reading,

Sara

Resolving To Be A Better Me

As I sat in deep contemplation on the last day of 2017, I was struck by the stark contrast between the early years of my adult life and now. I remember the excitement and apprehension of the night to come, with little care of the impending agony of tomorrows hangover! I would sip wine with friends as we applied makeup, styled hair and slipped into something decidedly less comfortable! We would talk sadly of our unfortunate pals ‘stuck at home’ for whatever reason and promised that we would never become so boring! I couldn’t understand how that ‘sensible’ sort of life could possibly be any fun! Don’t get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoy getting dolled up and going out with friends, its just that now, 90% of the time the ‘boring sensible option’ is far more appealing. Indeed, in those early days of motherhood I felt a little sorry for myself when I had to miss a birthday/ party/ gig etc… But now, I cannot explain well enough the beautifully warm and content emotions triggered by the giggles and snuggles with my children. To look into their eyes and see my love reflected back at me, is one of the most incredible things perceivable!

So, snuggled up in bed at 9pm on new years eve, with my boys tiny little arms around me and their heads resting on my chest for story time, I was exactly where I wanted to be. In fact, compared to this right now, nothing could make me happier! Waking hangover and regret free is an unmistakeable bonus of course!

So now I have begun thinking about new years resolutions.  There is something so optimistic and rejuvenating about the start of a new year. Leaving behind bad feelings and bad habits and starting fresh. Its important to stay realistic of course. Unrealistic expectations lead to feelings of failure better off avoided!

I have to admit that the oh so familiar feelings of post natal depression and anxiety have been creeping back into my life. I have again begun waking with the icy fingers of irrational fear tightening around my heart. The overwhelming bouts of tiredness coupled with the guilt of not being the mom my kids deserve is horrendous! Armed with the cognitive behavioural therapy exercises from the last time postnatal depression had me, I am certainly more confident that only I can really effect change. However I know I really need to start swimming to avoid those depths.

As a daughter of a US Marine, I was raised with sayings such as “there is no such thing as ‘cant’!” He is the most amazing man I have ever known and have always tried to make him proud. So you can imagine how it felt when I realised that I had hit a wall and couldn’t find a way through by will alone. I have always thought the idea of tough love regarding depression and anxiety as often well meaning,  but ultimately destructive and not a useful tool. Family or friends inferring that depression is a self imposed state of mind that can be snapped out of if the want is great enough is infuriating. Depression and anxiety are often deep rooted and multifaceted conditions requiring a multidisciplinary approach of medication, therapy and hard work.

I am going to attempt change the things I can change. Its going to be tough, but my family deserves it. I deserve it.

MY RESOLUTIONS:

I’ve decided this year to focus on improving my health, both physical and mental and my productivity. None of these goals are mutually exclusive and I expect as I work on various aspects, other aspects will become easier too. For example if I am eating better I should have more energy, thus increasing my ability to exercise and also increasing productivity! I figure that through working on these goals I can be a more productive person, a better wife and mother and a better role model for my kids.

RESOLUTION 1:  WORK ON PHYSICAL HEALTH

So I’m not the fittest person in the world and to say I haven’t got time for the gym is an understatement! I don’t plan on running a marathon any time soon but I plan to get at least 30 minutes of walking in every day. Its not a lot and the minimum I would have to spend walking to go to a park and back. No more excuses about the rain! We live in Ireland for goodness sake! We all have raincoats and there’s a cover for the buggy! No more excuses!

As regards my diet, I plan on striving for a super, healthy plant diet.

I  WILL AVOID:

. Meat and animal products (for the most part)

. Cigarettes, alcohol and tea/coffee (thankfully I’ve addressed these demons fairly well already!)

. Refined sugar (including chocolate….Eek! this is probably the hardest one!!!)

I watched a documentary recently on NETFLIX called ‘What the health’ that I can honestly say completely changed my views about food! It explains how processed meat has been classified by the world health organisation at a type 1 carcinogen! That puts it in the same category as plutonium and cigarettes!!!!!! Unprocessed meat is a type 2 carcinogen. I can’t in good conscience feed this to my family anymore. I mean, I don’t even allow someone to hold my baby if they’ve just had a cigarette, so I’m not going to have him regularly ingesting substances which cause cancer (not to mention the links with heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia!!!!). A predominantly plant based diet has been proven time and time again, to prevent these diseases and even cure them!

As a sufferer of depression, studies about the link between the link between diet and depression are of particular interest to me! In the ‘SMILES trial’ , a link between diet and level of depression is shown. Broadly defined, participants had to report a poor (low) intake of dietary fibre, lean proteins and fruit and vegetables, and a high intake of sweets, processed meats and salty snacks. The result clearly show that an improvement in diet directly correlates with an improvement in mental health.

RESOLUTION 2: BECOME MORE PRODUCTIVE

HOW? GET UP EARLIER IN THE MORNING

So, one of the most difficult things I find is getting up an dressed and going in the morning! I know/ hope if I could get up a bit earlier, and get myself going in the quiet, calm hours of the morning I could get more done and start my day off with a sense of achievement. In my college days I would get up at 5am to study as this was my most productive time of the day. I hope to get that back. Experts say that it takes 21 days to change a habit… hopefully that also means I can reinstate an old habit in this time!

I’m exited to improve myself and already feel a little buzz about having a plan!

I’ll post again soon about my progress!

As always, thanks for reading!

Sara