This Mom Developed Pregnancy-Related Cancer—Now Her Twin Gave Birth to Her Second Child For Her
In 2018, Sarah Sharp faced a devastating diagnosis: She had cancer—specifically, a rare disease called choriocarcinoma, which doctors believe originated from her first pregnancy.
Of course, fighting for her life was top of mind for Sharp, but she had another concern as well: As a mom of a 1-year-old, she wanted to give her child a sibling, and knew there was a chance the disease would take her ability to carry another child. But her twin sister, Cathey Stoner, made a life-changing offer: She told her sister that if Sharp needed a hysterectomy, Stoner would have her babies for her.
According to ABC News, Sharp underwent seven rounds of chemotherapy to fight the cancer while saving her uterus—and the treatment seemed to work. But by the time Sharp's first checkup rolled around, the cancer had returned. This time, Sharp underwent a hysterectomy, which successfully removed the cancer, but took Sharp's chances of carrying another baby. Luckily, her twin assured her that she was serious and would carry her sister's babies for her.
And that's exactly what she did. In October of 2020, the sister began the surrogacy process, and by the end of the year, they learned Stoner was pregnant. On August 18, 2021, she gave birth to Sharp's baby boy, John Ryder Sharp. "It was a whirlwind of emotions," Sharp tells People of meeting her son. "He came from my sister, but I could tell he was mine."
Deciding to go this route happened prior to even learning she had choriocarcinoma. "The seed was planted way before I even found out about my cancer diagnosis," Sharp tells Parents. "When they thought I may have a ectopic pregnancy, I almost underwent an emergency hysterectomy in which Cathey came running by my side. Distraught over the thought of this, she casually said, 'I'll have your babies' to lighten the mood. Then, a year later after my diagnosis, cancer treatment, and hysterectomy, she said it for real and meant it."
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The sisters didn't resume the conversation until Sharp had been in remission for a year. They ensured they were good candidates for the process, which involved creating embryos from Sharp's eggs, since she still has her ovaries, and implanting them in Stoner's uterus.
"Cathey knew we were thinking about surrogacy and she told me specifically that she felt called to be ours and to look no further," Sharp says. "For her, I think it was never a question. And without hesitancy, she took it on as a ministry and calling. Of course her husband had to be on board and family because it is a family affair! And takes a village—it really is a purest act of love and we are still in awe at her willingness and gift she's giving to our family."
The sisters are sharing their story via their podcast, Talk to Me Sister—and it's not just a really beautiful story of sisterly love, it's also doing wonders to spread awareness about choriocarcinoma, which is a form of gestational trophoblastic disease. According to the American Cancer Society, these cancers start in the cells that would normally develop into the placenta during pregnancy.
"[Choriocarcinoma] is a form of gestational trophoblastic disease—which can come from a miscarriage, molar pregnancy, or full-term pregnancy. I just never knew you could get cancer from having a baby," says Sharp. "When I was going through my cancer journey I felt so alone. I went to social media to find anyone, just anyone who had been down the same road. I found several women abroad and a few stateside who were chorio survivors. It helped me to see women who had gone through it and come out the other side. So I felt being vocal about even the ups and downs was necessary. And now being on the other side, and sharing hope of a future life and pregnancy seemed like a no-brainer."
Now, Sharp is counting her blessings. "I haven't had much sleep because I just watch him; I still cry when I look at his face," Sharp tells People. "When something terrible happens, it can feel like that's the end. But life can surprise you. John Ryder is such a representation of hope and that life can be better again."