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RIP, Heather Burcham

Heather Burcham, who was a leader in the effort to make the HPV vaccine mandatory this past spring, has died of cervical cancer. She was 31 years old.

Burcham was misdiagnosed by a half dozen doctors over a five year period, before learning she suffered from the disease.

She said she wanted her battle with cancer told so she could save the lives of others.

Burcham was named Person of the Week by ABC News in February.

“I don’t want to have lived in vain. I don’t want my life to have no purpose whatsoever. And if I can help spread the word about cervical cancer, and the HPV vaccine, then I haven’t lived in vain. … I think that they didn’t want to tell someone so young and in such good health that they had cancer … let alone, they were going to die,” says Burcham.

Burcham understands there are real questions about the vaccine. People have worries and concerns, and she just wants to make sure people educate themselves about cervical cancer, a cancer that kills 3,700 American women every year. And she does that by telling her own story.

“It can happen to women as early as 18 or 21. Cancer knows no age, knows no race, it knows no gender. It can happen to anyone, and I just beg mothers out there to please research. Please find out all you can about the vaccination before you make up your mind,” Burcham says, weeping.

She went to Austin to testify before the Lege about HB1098, the bill that ultimately overturned Governor Perry’s executive order mandating the HPV vaccine. Perry cited her in his speech of May 8, after HB1098 passed. Burcham was too weak to be in Austin that day, but she delivered a message via video for that press conference. She fought till the end.

Rest in peace, Heather Burcham.

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