The grieving family of a young Blackpool mum who died after a year-long battle with cancer today described her death as “completely avoidable.”
Rachel Sarjantson was just 24 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year – but despite being called for her smear test early it was too late to save her life.
In a moving tribute, her family described her as a “loving” mum who devoted herself to her 20-month-old son Ronnie.
But as they called for the age limit for cervical screening to be lower, her mum, Lisa Rich, said: “She didn’t need to suffer this – it was tragic and completely avoidable.”
Just 12 months after being diagnosed with the aggressive cancer, Rachel died on August 12, at the age of 25.
Mum Lisa said: “She was a loving person and very close to her little boy.
“Throughout the whole thing, she remained positive.
“She never gave in and made a bucket list because as far as she was concerned she was going to beat it.”
Rachel, of Palatine Road, was an early years practitioner at Grunty’s Day Care, at Newton Hall, where she worked for nine years until the cancer forced her to stop.
Last year, she was among the women chosen at random to have their smear test a few months early.
When the results came back abnormal she was called the see her GP, leading to the devastating bombshell news she had cancer.
Despite undergoing a hysterectomy in September, the cancer spread to her lymph nodes and she underwent radiotherapy in late 2014.
Such was her devotion to her young son, who was just eight months old when she was diagnosed, she planned her treatment to ensure he could still celebrate his first birthday properly.
Her sister, Zoe, who worked with Rachel at the nursery, said: “She had her radiotherapy on the day of his first birthday celebration so they could have a party that night.”
Following the treatment doctors thought she was in the clear but in April she was told the cancer had returned.
She managed two sessions of chemotherapy but by that time her body was too weak to withstand the treatment.
She was admitted to hospital for the final time on June 30. She remained there until she was transferred to Trinity Hospice on August 12, where she died the same day.
Her family are now campaigning to lower the age limit for cervical screening and prevent other young woman dying as Rachel did.
Had the symptoms been spotted earlier, they say, a simple procedure could have prevented the tumour developing.
Zoe, 28, added: “If the age limit had been lowered already, she might still be here.
“So many young girls are dying of it. Maybe in time they can help other mums, for their children’s sake if not anything else.”
Her mum added: “It shouldn’t be happening in this country.
“She was trying to plan camping trips.
“She really wanted to get better and to carry on – as far as she was concerned that’s what she was going to do.
“Even when the doctors said you don’t have to have any more operations if you don’t want, she said ‘no, that would be giving in’.”
Former Hodgson High School pupil Rachel was due to marry her fiancé Karl Hyde in March until her illness forced them to cancel.
Karl, a corporal in the army, has now transferred to the second battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s regiment, based at Weeton, so he can be at home to look after their son.
News of Rachel’s death was met with an outpouring of grief online, where friends had been raising money to help cover the costs of her respite and recovery.
With it, she was able to spend a few days in Windermere in the weeks before she died.
The remaining money is being used to pay for her funeral, which was due to take place today.
Her family said Rachel loved her work at the day care centre and lived for her young son.
Mum Lisa added: “After she had Ronnie, she had gone back to work two days a week because she liked to stay home with him.”
Former manager at Grunty’s Day Care and close family friend Amanda Dytor set up the online fund-raising page to help Rachel when she became ill.
She now lives in America and said she wanted to be able to help in some way.
She said: “She was a great friend and so much fun to be around. She was an amazing person and always so positive.
“The dedication and devotion she had for Ronnie were second to none. She absolutely worshipped the ground he walked on.”