Cervical cancer patient who campaigned for HPV vaccine has died

Mother-of-one Eileen Rushe died surrounded by family on Tuesday morning
Cervical cancer patient who campaigned for HPV vaccine has died

Louise Walsh

A terminally ill cervical cancer patient who urged parents to sign their children up for the HPV vaccine has died.

Mother-of-one Eileen Rushe, who received "heartfelt' apologies" and an undisclosed sum from the HSE last March for failings in her care at the Louth County Hospital, died surrounded by family on Tuesday morning.

Despite the cancer spreading to her brain, the 35-year-old continued to campaign for the HPV vaccine and just last month spoke about feeling "blessed" to have an "amazing" son, family and community around her.

In the weeks before her death, she purchased the local authority house she shared with her 14-year-old son Seamus in Termonfeckin, Co Louth to ensure he could continue to live in his childhood home.

Ms Rushe was diagnosed with stage three cancer in December 2018, despite being monitored for 18 months when abnormal cells showed up during a routine smear test in 2017.


After beating the cancer initially, it returned aggressively, spreading to her spine and lungs.

"On one occasion, Ltletz (the most common procedure in removing cervical tissue) was not administered but if it was, the likelihood is that I would not be facing a terminal diagnosis today," she said previously.

She always remained bubbly and positive, despite her diagnosis and said she was not angry over what had happened. She detailed her journey in a blog "Cancer is a b***h".

Just last month she said: "I feel very blessed for what I have. I have an amazing son, an amazing family and a community that never stops to overwhelm me with their thoughts and deeds.

"I feel very strongly about the vaccine and urge people not to shy away from it. I know Covid-19 delayed the screening last year but it should be rolled out again in schools this year.

"Cervical screening does work. It picked up my abnormal smears and my cancer. It wasn't the screening that failed me.

"I just think that if it existed when I was a teenager, I wouldn't be dying now and my son wouldn't be facing a future as an orphan. And that's the clearest message I can give."


Tributes have begun to pour in for Ms Rushe and she has been described as a "beautiful soul" by Natalie Kelly, founder of the Drogheda Dolls — a 15,000-strong group who surprised Ms Rushe with hundreds of daffodils earlier this year.

"Eileen's beauty radiated from her insides out and you couldn't help but love her the minute you met her. She handled her illness with the same humour and grace," she said.

"She didn't want anyone else to suffer as she had. She so selflessly and tirelessly right to the end, gave to others and campaigned to make sure everyone was safe and aware to check their 'bits' as she put it.

"She wasn't bitter about anything. She lived loving others and showing love to others. She deserved better than cancer.

"I don't think anyone will ever forget her or pass a yellow sunflower or daffodil without thinking of her. We will never forget your beautiful smile, your encouraging words, your legacy, your love, your humour - we will never forget you."

Ms Rushe is survived by her son Seamus, her parents Mary and Jim, siblings Eoin, Darragh, Siobhan and Treasa, relatives and friends.

This article was amended at 1.52pm on 28/09/21.

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