I know there are concerns about Gardasil, the vaccine for HPV, and I’m not a medical professional so I can’t provide any sort of authoritative opinion about its safety or effectiveness. What I will tell you is this: My cousin C. died last night. She was only 40 years old. She leaves behind two children, and lots of bereft friends and family members. She fought cervical cancer for several years. She had always taken very good care of her health, including getting regular pap smears, and initially it seemed like the cancer had been caught very early, before it had a chance to spread. But the cancer came back and she spent most of last fall enduring chemotherapy and radiation treatments. By February, though, she was on the mend. We celebrated her 40th birthday last summer with a big party and the fervent hope that she’d have many more birthdays to follow.
A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from her indicating that suddenly she was in a lot of pain. This scared her, because pain was the signal for the previous re-occurrence. Two days later, another e-mail and then a call: the cancer was back, and the prognosis wasn’t good at all. Her parents spent the last two weeks trying to find some experimental protocol somewhere that might help her. Anything to give her more time.
I’d hoped to see her at Thanksgiving; it seemed at least possible she’d see another Christmas. But she contracted an infection rather suddenly, and she was too weak to fight it off. She was a warm, friendly, talented person, beautiful inside and out. She tried so hard to stay alive. I can’t believe she is gone.
Here is a sentence from the final e-mail I received from C. a couple of days ago:
Ann, cancer does SUCK!!!!!!!
I want to believe in Gardasil. I lost a grandmother to cervical cancer many years ago, and now C. as well. A new study suggests Gardasil is safe for men, who can be vaccinated as well as women. Please think about it if you qualify.