Hanover mother hopes to find clinical trial to fight stage 4 cancer

A local mother spent nearly a year in the PICU fighting to save her son’s life. Now, she’s fighting for her own life in a race against time.
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 5:35 PM EDT
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HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) - A local mother spent nearly a year in the PICU fighting to save her son’s life. Now, she’s fighting for her own life in a race against time.

Sarah Adams has stage four colorectal cancer and is out of traditional options to beat it. That’s why she’s turning to the community with the hopes of finding a clinical trial or treatment option that could give her a chance to watch her kids grow up.

In life, they say there are ups and downs. With kids, nothing is predictable. But the Adams family story is more unexpected.

“Things went off the rails,” said Sarah Adams. “Probably was right around Mike’s birthday, August of 2021.”

Just two years ago, Sarah and Mike Adams’ son Everett was one year old. At an ultrasound, Sarah and Mike say part of their son Owen’s heart wasn’t functioning. He had hypoplastic left heart syndrome and would need multiple surgeries to save his life.

“For a week was horrible. I would love to go back to that being the problem because, you know, the path we had was significantly harder,” Sarah said.

Owen was born and quickly needed his first heart surgery. But during the surgery, his chest wouldn’t close.

He crashed, coded and faced death more than once. His parents rearranged their lives to be by his side, tagging between their home with Everett and UVA with Owen.

Owen’s battle with his heart was enough to make anyone’s own heart sink. And then, another heart problem arose: the one he had would never work. Doctors said he needed a transplant. Without one, Owen would not make it.

Sarah and Mike were faced with “what ifs” no parent wants to hear and that most parents never face. Still, Sarah held tight to the other type of “what if.”

What if he made it?

“My favorite thing to do is remind him of that because I said, ‘I think you’re wrong.’” Sarah said. “‘I think he’s going to get out.’”

She rocked him and loved him from a PICU hospital room, watching him battle for life, hoping for a heart and a chance. For anyone, that would have been enough weight to carry.

In that room, with all that worry, what Sarah thought were common symptoms of her pregnancy started to escalate, and the weight got heavier.

Sarah called for a colonoscopy, which ultimately confirmed that she had stage four colorectal cancer.

“I was in the hospital, they were very, very aware of my situation, and he said, you know, unfortunately, the scans did not show good news, I have metastases to my liver and my lungs,” Sarah said.

A very sick mom, a very sick child and a young child at home. The blows kept coming. Until finally, there was one good day in May. Owen got his heart.

“You know, realistically, when it got to the point where it was when everyone goes home, everybody was shocked, Sarah said. “The doctors, everybody was so amazed that that child, he was the sickest baby in the PICU until he got his heart. He was the child.”

Owen smiled again and went home a few months later. But his needs are still extensive, as the family still has normal everyday hurdles of raising young kids. Sarah’s fight with cancer is also just beginning, with no clear path forward.

“I’ve done 13 rounds of chemo, 30 rounds of radiation,” Sarah said. “The chemo stopped working, so I enrolled in an immunotherapy trial, which unfortunately didn’t work either. So now I’m on; it’s kind of like a bridge chemo. It’s an oral chemo that typically you have, like, a two to five-month span where it works, and then it stops working.”

The family finally lives all together, but they know there is work left to do. Life-saving work.

“You know, I’m just a regular girl, I’m a mom, I work, I’m a wife, and I need a cancer treatment that’s going to work for me, not in that order,” Sarah said.

It’s why Sarah is sharing her story with NBC12. She hopes a bigger audience, maybe even someone hearing this story, might have some bigger ideas.

“I think, without sounding foolish, I think it’s out there. I think it’s just going to take some looking for it,” Sarah said. “So yeah, it’s a matter of finding a clinical trial that will work and making sure that we can get things done while I’m healthy enough to find what it’s going to be.”

Saving Sarah will take a miracle, but this family has prayed for one of those before and seen it happen.

”He was in the smallest percentages every, every step of the way, Sarah said. “Owen was in the very small percentage where you could expect a positive outcome. So that’s where I am right now. And I think I would be a lot more panicked if I hadn’t witnessed that absolute miracle. I mean, time after time after time, like, okay, I’ve got a 3%, that’s fine.”

For those that want to support Sarah’s family, there are a couple of ways to do that. There is a GoFundMe for financial support that you can donate to here.

For those who may know of a medical option that Sarah may be able to pursue, get in touch with Sarah at SarahAdamsRVA@gmail.com.