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‘At 27, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Three days later, I had my fallopian tubes removed.’

Riarna Springbett was busy checking off all of life’s boxes.

She and her husband, Troy, were running their own business. They had a beautiful two-year-old boy, Hunter. And they were planning on adding to their family next year.

But in June, the Adelaide mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 cervical cancer at just 27.

Riarna and Troy with Hunter. Image supplied.

Though she says her cancer diagnosis wasn’t completely unexpected. She knew she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation, which means she was at a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

“My concern was with breast and ovarian cancer and I was having regular screenings, but then I ended up with cervical cancer,” she told Mamamia.

Riarna said abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge, lower back and abdominal pain and severe fatigue caused her to go to the doctor and have a pap smear in April – four months before her regular test was due.

“My concern was with breast and ovarian cancer and I was having regular screenings, but I ended up with cervical cancer,” Riarna said. Image supplied.

While awaiting the results, Riarna discovered a lump in her cervix while inserting a tampon.

That lump turned out to be a tumour that was too large to remove and too difficult to operate on.

On June 17, a doctor told Riarna she had cervical cancer, which had spread to the lymph nodes in her pelvic wall.

“I just completely broke down,” she says on learning the news.

Riarna was in and out of hospital for months. Image supplied.

She said she was told on a Monday that her best chance of survival was to have her fallopian tubes removed and ovaries lifted out of the way to clear the path for radiation (her ovaries were kept to prevent menopause).

The surgery meant the young family could not have any more biological kids.

“We had two and a half days to get used to the fact that we couldn’t have any more children,” Riarna said.

“Being told I have cancer and then that I couldn’t have any more kids as well was quite emotional.

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“We chose not to harvest eggs because of the time it would take – because of the size of the tumour, we didn’t want to wait and delay treatment.

“We were actually planning on having a second child next year, but that’s all been crushed now.”

The treatments were gruelling for the young mum. Image supplied.

Riarna said the loss of her dream of a larger family was one of the things she was still coming to terms with.

“It’s something we’re still trying to work through,” she said.

“I’m almost grieving for something I can’t have anymore. Not only do we have to deal with cancer, but also no longer expanding our family. It’s tough.”

A gruelling round of treatment followed, including five chemotherapy sessions, around 30 external radiation sessions and three invasive internal radiation sessions – seven weeks that were “extremely tough” on Riarna and her family.

“It was a lot of time away from my toddler and I couldn’t be a mum to him, I couldn’t be a wife,” she said.

Now, Riarna and her family are living each day to the fullest. Image supplied.

Now, they are enduring the long wait before scans in December will reveal how successful the treatment was.

“It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” she said.

“There are times that are tough. Both my husband and I have always remained positive and I think that’s really important.

“Just living life and making memories is something we’re focusing on now. Just living every day.”

Riarna is back at the gym four times a week and living a healthy life. Image supplied.

Riarna advised other women to be in tune with their bodies.

“If I wasn’t in tune with my body, I may not have found the tumour and my story could have been very different,” she said.

She is one of many women who are now sharing their stories to raise awareness on The Faces of Cervical Cancer website.

The Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) reports that four in 10 Australian women do not have the recommended two-yearly Pap test, largely due to the emotional discomfort and worry about not being ‘normal’ down there. While cervical cancer is largely survivable, 90 per cent of women who die from it have not had regular Pap tests.

To read more stories from women touched by cervical cancer, or to share your story, visit the site here

You can register for a free SMS Pap test reminder here.

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