Hawke’s Bay mother who put her child’s life before her own dies aged 20

A young Hawke’s Bay woman who captured the hearts of the nation after refusing cancer treatment to protect the health of her then unborn son has died aged 20.

Rhianna Truman passed away on December 21 after an eight-year battle with cancer.

In 2012, Rhianna, known as Rhi Rhi, was diagnosed with adamantinoma​ – an extremely rare bone cancer in her leg.

After having metal rods and screws put in her leg, the teenager was told the cancer had spread to her lungs in 2015, with little chance of a cure.

When falling pregnant the following year, she was offered a treatment which may have helped slow down the disease – but it would have put her unborn son at risk.

She declined the treatment, in the hopes her child would be born healthy.

Now aged 4, her son Daeshaun is healthy, but without his mother.

Rhianna’s aunty Vicky Truman said every decision her niece made was for her son.

“She battled right until the last second – that was the type of kid she was,” she said. “She didn’t want to give up for Daeshaun.

“He has been loved by all of us from day one. He was the apple of her eye and she simply didn’t want to hurt her baby.”

Rhianna kept a memory box with notes, souvenirs, videos and pictures for Daeshaun from throughout their short time together.

“Daeshaun’s never going to forget her,” Vicky added.

Mourners gathered at Central Hawke’s Bay Municipal Theatre, in Waipawa, on December 24 to share their condolences to Rhianna’s family, before her burial at Waipawa Cemetery.

Reminiscing, Vicky said Rhianna would be remembered as a “positive, bubbly and cheeky” girl, with others well-being at the forefront of her thoughts.

“She always cared that everyone else was all right, but she was the one going through the most,” she said. “Even if she was having the worst day of her life, she still smiled and asked if you were all right. It was never about her.

“We always knew from day one the cancer was non-treatable, so we knew this day was going to come. But we weren’t expected it quite yet.

“Losing someone at this time of year makes it even tougher. Our hearts are filled with sadness, love and uncertainty of what our world will look like now.”

The family gave special thanks to the staff at Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, Acorn Project HB, Totara Health, Cranford Hospice, Flaxmere Pharmacy and others who supported Rhianna on her journey.

In memory of her niece, Vicky and her partner plan to print Rhianna’s face on the side of their truck.

“My husband bought the truck and called it Rhianna. Originally, she was going to create a design to put on it, but she didn’t get around to doing that,” she said.

“But, we’ve picked a photo, which will sit alongside a message on the truck forever.”

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