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Let’s Talk HPV: An Oncology Nurse’s Advice

Martha's daughter
Martha’s daughter

I am Martha Aiyuk, AKA “Princess”. I was born and raised in Cameroon, West Africa and moved to Reno 23 years ago to meet my husband, Peter Aiyuk. My husband and I have been blessed with three amazing children, Angel (22), Brandon (17), and Maya (13). Angel is truly our angel, an intelligent, vivacious and smart young lady. She recently graduated from UNR with a biochemistry degree. What is so amazing is that she accomplished this in four years. Angel has always made us proud and continues to do so with whatever she does. Brandon is our football star. He has some fancy moves on the field. His nifty moves got him a punt run for a touchdown in their season opener and he did the same thing against the Senators last Friday. My son loves football; he talks, breaths and eats football. Then there is Maya, my spice girl with a mind of her own. She is going to be my singer even though she does not think she can sing. She loves school and loves to play volleyball as well. I know you might be thinking, “She is not old enough to have a 22 year-old.” But, I kid you not, she is mine all mine given to me by God. (I must say, I do look damn good for popping out these three kids…Ha-ha!!!).

Martha's daughter
Martha’s daughter

So, let’s get back to the real story about my personal opinion about HPV vaccines. Every time I hear the word vaccine, I am all for it as I have experienced firsthand the devastating effects of preventable diseases that have taken away lives of innocent children in Africa. So, you could say I am biased when vaccines are concerned. I must say, at first I did not “buy into” the HPV vaccines when they came out in 2006. The media information regarding the vaccine was not pleasant to listen to, however, I knew there was another side to the story. I needed to spend some time on my own to understand what the vaccine was all about.

I did my research and was comfortable with the information I found. The safety and efficacy gave me the okay to go ahead and give it to my daughter. I did not have any problems giving the vaccine to Angel; what I had trouble with was how to bring up the word, SEX. SEX and an African mother don’t go together as this is a taboo subject for us. We Africans want our kids to go to school, succeed and get married. Any activities in between simply don’t exist. I don’t believe we talked about the sexual aspect of this vaccine, because in all honesty, that’s not what this vaccine is about. This vaccine protects against HPV viruses that may be spread through sexual or skin-to-skin contact. So, the HPV vaccine is meant to protect them even before they become sexually active.

Martha's son
Martha’s son

With Brandon, I remember telling him it was to protect him from the world since he was playing basketball and football at the time. I even gave him the meningitis vaccine as well. My son did tell me that the HPV vaccine hurt the most, but he had all three shots without any issues.

Now with Maya, things have changed.  Like I said, she is my spice girl. Unfortunately, during her middle school visit I forgot to ask for the HPV vaccine, so she did not receive it at age twelve like it is recommended. I told her we missed it and would need to get the vaccine at a later time. Maya had lots of questions regarding the vaccine, and much to my surprise, she was more worried about the vaccine being painful; she heard horror stories from her schoolmates.

This time around, I really needed to put my healthcare provider hat on. I even took Maya to an educational back-to-school program event I was doing for the community regarding HPV vaccines. She participated in the education and trivia questions that day. I was able to educate her as her mother and as a nurse. Seventy percent of cervical cancer is associated with the HPV virus. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine is being monitored by the CDC, and so far there have been no reports of any severe adverse events.

Martha's daughter
Martha’s daughter

I believe it is very important to have your kids vaccinated and this is why: it is effective, safe and affordable. More importantly, the vaccine protects against certain high-risk types of HPV that cause cancers such as cervical, oropharyngeal (mouth and throat), vulvar, penile and anal cancers.

HPV is spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact, not just sex. It is important to know that this vaccine is preventive. It can protect your love ones before they are exposed to the virus.

Because I work in oncology, I see patients fight for their lives and battle cancer. In my opinion, having a discussion with your children and preventing them against cancer far exceeds the alternative. Protect your children against this deadly disease by vaccinating them against this deadly virus. I believe in vaccines and I look forward to more research and discoveries of new vaccines to help eradicate cancer for good. This is a mother’s opinion after all.

For more information about the HPV vaccine, call Saint Mary’s Medical Group at 775-770-7664.

saint marys regional medical center


martha aiyuk - RNMartha Aiyuk, RN, BSN, OCN is the Manager for Oncology Services at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Reno. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Nevada, Reno. She has over 17 years of experience in a variety of oncology nursing roles including direct patient care, management, patient and staff education and review for policies involving radiation oncology. She is an active educator for the Annual Oncology Conference for oncology nurses at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, where she teaches chemotherapy administration, managing side effects from radiation and chemotherapy, and radiation safety and guidelines.

Martha has been certified in oncology nursing since 2001. She is also involved in numerous fundraising activities to raise awareness and funding in the fight against cancer. Specifically, she is currently a co-coordinator for Relay for Life Fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. She is also an active leader in Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.


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