A HPV Story

Place of Residence: Massapequa Park, New York

When Mary Beth was just 7 years old, she lost her grandmother, Mary, to cervical cancer. Back in the 1950s, routine Pap smears weren’t standard practice for women’s health and her grandmother’s cancer wasn’t discovered until an advanced stage. As a nurse practitioner, Mary Beth understands the value of routine immunizations and works to educate others about the power of prevention.

Mary Beth shares the story of her grandmother who passed away from cervical cancer in her mid-60s.

How would you describe your grandmother, Mary?

My grandmother was a wonderful cook and enjoyed making Sunday dinner for her whole family. She prided herself on caring for her family and once she got sick, she hated having others take care of her.

What happened when your grandmother got sick?

I remember my grandmother making Sunday dinner and then one Sunday she was in bed and never got better. I watched her die slowly. I remember my aunt working so hard to keep my grandmother clean and smelling fresh. As a child, little did I know that the cervical cancer was causing her to rot on the inside. Pap smears were just being introduced in the mid-1950s and by the time her cervical cancer was discovered, it was too late.

How has your grandmother’s experience with cervical cancer impacted your life?

Even though I was only 7 years old, I knew my grandmother’s illness was serious. I remember the day she died, and I was allowed to attend her wake and funeral. I’m a nurse practitioner and have wanted to be a nurse since I was 3 years old. Seeing my family experience the loss of my grandmother in her 60s to cervical cancer – and growing up with a mother who survived polio – drew me to the field of public health.

What do you want others to know about the importance of routine immunizations?

My family experienced the burden of cervical cancer and polio. We have vaccines that can prevent polio and some cancers, including cervical cancer, caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).

I want others to know that we have the power to help protect ourselves and our loved ones with vaccination!
What have you done to help raise awareness about the importance of vaccination?

As a nurse practitioner, I speak on local, state, national, and international levels about vaccines and have attended numerous events where I answer the public’s questions on vaccines. I have been on many radio programs and podcasts and have written journal articles and textbook chapters.

As a public health expert, Mary Beth is a passionate vaccine advocate. Having seen how vaccine-preventable diseases affected her own family, she educates others about the importance of staying up to date on all vaccinations across the lifespan.



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