New HPV vaccination data released; cervical cancer survivor starts support group

Updated: February 20, 2020 06:16 PM

More than 4,000 women in the United States will die from cervical cancer this year, according to estimates by the American Cancer Society. But, getting the HPV vaccine can prevent the disease from ever developing. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS talked to two women who have battled this type of cancer.

"It's something I'll always deal with, especially being my age, I'm at the age where a lot of my friends are having babies," said Cervical cancer survivor Andrea Bonhiver.


Fellow cervical cancer survivor Lily Taylor echoed Bonhiver, saying, "Yeah that's really hard."

Bonhiver, 35, was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 32 and forced to get a hysterectomy.

"Personally for me, it was kind of devastating. My husband and I had been married for 2 years ... We knew going into marriage we wanted to have a family, and I know my husband had a hard time with knowing his bloodline might come to an end with him ... That was a dream that was going to die for both of us," Bonhiver said.

The choice to have children biologically was no longer theirs. Taylor understood.

"I just wanted a local place where women could get together in person," Taylor said.

Leading the way, Taylor started a support group at the beginning of the year.

"I think just being able to hear someone else say, 'oh yeah, I know exactly what you went through,' or, 'yeah, I know that feeling, I went through that, too,'" said Taylor.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) said it's important to hear Taylor's and Bonhiver's stories. Annie Fedorowicz, Adolescent and Adult Immunization Coordinator with MDH said, "We can show to parents why it's so important to get your kids vaccinated and on time."

New MDH statistics reveal more adolescents started the HPV series vaccinations in 2019 compared to 2018, up to 52% from 48%. And, more adolescents finished the HPV series, moving from 21% to 25%.

Fedorowicz said while there's improvement, more work needs to be done. MDH wants families to have their pre-teens get the HPV vaccination series when they get their other vaccines.

"The vaccine is most effective at preventing cancer if it is given on time, which is at 11 and 12-year-old age range, so that's really our focus of HPV vaccination," said Fedorowicz.

Taylor said her message is: "Get the HPV vaccine ... but also listen to your body ... If something is off, say something." Taylor said at first she didn't tell her doctors about her symptoms.

For more information about the new cervical cancer group, follow the link here.

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Brandi Powell

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