A single mother-of-four who would would wake up drenched with sweat every night before she was finally diagnosed with terminal colon cancer has died after a 14-month battle against the disease.
Sarah Langlands, 35, made headlines in March after revealing she wanted to head to Thailand for her ‘final shot at a cure’ so she could watch her kids grow up after doctors told her western medicine couldn’t keep her alive.
But it appeared the ‘holistic’ approach offered at the centre in Thailand couldn’t save her either.
In a heartbreaking post her sister revealed Sarah had lost that fight on Tuesday leaving the whole family devastated.
Sarah Langlands, 35, pictured with her kids (l-r): Tayla, 14, Reese, 9, Kydan, 11 and Jordyn, 7 has lost her 14-month battle with cancer
Sarah asked for help from doctors for months before her family GP finally sent her to the hospital for a thorough checkup
She also called for her friends and family to monitor for symptoms of the deadly disease which is treated successfully in 90 percent of patients when found early.
‘If you feel any changes in your bowel movements please get checked.
‘We wish we knew more about bowel cancer before. Life is so precious, so fragile, we wish we had more time,’ her heartbroken sister wrote.
‘No words can describe the immense pain and heartbreak we are feeling by losing Sarah.
‘She was funny and silly and loyal and protective. She meant the world to so many people and we will forever feel the heartache of her absence.’
In March Sarah spoke to FEMAIL and explained she needed to get better so she could be there for her kids.
She was raising money with Go Fund Me to get from Dampier to Thailand for alternative therapies alongside her traditional Western treatments which ‘weren’t working well enough’.
‘It’s my last shot at a cure, I need to get better for my kids,’ she said.
Sarah pictured with her kids before she had any symptoms of the disease which would claim her life
Sarah said she was completely shocked when she was diagnosed with the aggressive bowel cancer as she had always taken good care of herself.
‘It started in my large intestine and now covers 70 per cent of my liver, which is otherwise really healthy according to doctors,’ she said.
‘The night sweats were happening because the cancer was attacking my liver, I never had any blood in my stools or any other signs something was wrong.
‘It is wild how you can walk around feeling healthy and looking fine on the outside when something like this is growing in your insides.’
Sarah said she had gone to doctors about her night sweats which would leave her ‘soaked from head to toe’.
‘I had to change my clothes and sheets afterwards the sweats were so bad, but then I would wake up in the morning and feel fine,’ she said.
Sarah, who was working as a nurse in the hospital’s respiratory clinic at the time, assumed she had caught something from a patient.
‘When I talked to the doctors they said nothing was wrong, except that my iron was maybe a little low,’ she said.
Doctors offered her a blood transfusion and sent her home.
Sarah with her mum Tina who has was a huge support throughout her illness
What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
1 – A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhoea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
2 – Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
3 – Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
4 – A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
5 – Weakness or fatigue
6 – Unexplained weight loss
Guidelines generally recommend that colon cancer screenings begin around 50. Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier screening if you have other risk factors, such as a family history of the disease.
A few weeks later she found a lump in her stomach.
‘I am fairly thin so I could feel the whole thing, it was about five centimetres long and didn’t hurt,’ Sarah said.
‘This scared me and made me think cancer because I have “health anxiety”, I know the signs.’
She went back to see her doctor who ordered an ultrasound and asked the technician to tell her what they found ‘immediately’.
They said it was nothing to worry about, just fatty tissue
But Sarah continued to push for answers because of her ‘health anxiety’ – which she developed after having a melanoma cut out aged 15.
‘I get tested so often because the health system has told me there’s nothing to worry about before and were wrong. They said the mole they cut off when I was a teenager would be nothing. So I don’t trust them.’
As a result, Sarah has always gone to the doctors for six-monthly blood tests, eaten healthy foods – even transitioning to a vegan diet – and focused on holistic wellbeing.
Sarah wanted to be able to get better so she could watch her kids grow up
Sarah has had bad reactions to chemotherapy drugs and has had to endure 23 rounds but the cancer in her liver is proving to be stubborn
The busy mum said she avoided chemical-laden products and only used natural, organic makeup, shampoo and conditioner in an attempt to avoid cancer.
So when she was repeatedly told that everything was fine, Sarah decided to listen to her body instead and made an appointment to see her old family doctor.
‘He took one look at me, told me I look unwell and to head straight to emergency,’ she said.
‘He looked at my bloods and thought it must be viral, he didn’t think it was cancer.’
By now, Sarah was starting to feel chronically tired and was still concerned about the lump in her stomach.
Doctors took her blood and saw that her red cell count was down despite her recent iron transfusion.
She was put in the cancer ward, but didn’t realise until doctors told her she probably had bowel cancer or lymphoma.
‘They did a colonoscopy and couldn’t even get the scope through, the tumour was that big,’ Sarah said.
‘The tumour was that lump they kept telling me was fatty tissue and nothing to worry about. I was just so numb when they told me, I still am.’
Sarah had been super health conscious since she was a teenager when doctors found a melanoma on her back
After the official diagnosis on April 11, Sarah was given a CT scan.
‘The doctor who found the lump in the colonoscopy was there, I asked him what he expected and he said for me to “light up like a Christmas tree” (meaning many tumours), which terrified me.
‘I was absolutely devastated – I felt like I had all hope taken away from me at the beginning. That’s not fair – you can’t say that to someone,’ she said.
The scan showed the cancer was in her liver.
‘I called my mum first and she was shocked. I have always been the health conscious one in the family,’ Sarah said.
‘I am vegan, never smoke, rarely drink and live a really healthy lifestyle. I don’t even go in the sun because of my melanoma history.’
Tests found Sarah was low in vitamin D.
‘I didn’t realise but being low in vitamin D helps cancer grow – so I had the perfect grounds for it,’ she said.
Sarah said telling her mum was hard, but telling her kids was unbearable.
‘I sat them down, I didn’t tell them I had cancer but that was sick and I needed special medicine to make me better.
‘It was the most horrific thing I have ever had to do.’
The mum said losing her hair was difficult because it made her feel like she was no longer beautiful
What are the risk factors for colon cancer?
Older age. Colon cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but a majority of people with colon cancer are older than 50. The rates of colon cancer in people younger than 50 have been increasing, but doctors aren’t sure why.
A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. If you’ve already had colon cancer or noncancerous colon polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
Inflammatory intestinal conditions. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
Family history of colon cancer. You’re more likely to develop colon cancer if you have a blood relative who has had the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
Low-fibre, high-fat diet. Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a typical Western diet, which is low in fibre and high in fat and calories. Research in this area has had mixed results. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who eat diets high in red meat and processed meat.
A sedentary lifestyle. People who are inactive are more likely to develop colon cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
Diabetes. People with diabetes or insulin resistance have an increased risk of colon cancer.
Obesity. People who are obese have an increased risk of colon cancer and an increased risk of dying of colon cancer when compared with people considered normal weight.
Smoking. People who smoke may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
Alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol increases your risk of colon cancer.
Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers increases the risk of colon cancer.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Since then, Sarah has gone through surgery to have most of her large intestine removed – giving her ‘good margins around the disease’.
She has also been through 23 rounds of chemotherapy but the cancer is proving to be stubborn.
‘The chemo drugs worked for the first three months but then they took one of them away and the cancer all came back,’ she said.
‘It was really heartbreaking because I felt like I was working really hard, taking all of this medicine only for it to stop working.’
Sarah had been having an allergic reaction to one of the cancer drugs which meant she had to take chemo ‘lying down’ and it would take hours.
‘Telling my kids was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, it was horrific,’ she said in the months before she died
‘I would see everyone sitting up with a cup of tea getting their treatment and I was withering in pain, and it would take eight hours because they had to give me drugs for the allergy too.’
The cancer in her bowel is gone but the liver growths remain constant instead of dying off like doctors hoped.
Sarah wants to live as long as possible for her four children, so she has started looking up alternative treatments.
She found a German company in Thailand with a ‘holistic’ focus and is now trying to come up with the funds to get there for a final shot at life.
‘I have spoken to the oncologist there who does traditional treatments like chemotherapy alongside other things like intravenous vitamins,’ she said.
‘We know the power of the mind, and how important holistic health is and it is my chance at living.
The mum pictured after her operation where doctors removed the majority of her large intestine
‘The oncologists in Australia can only do so much and won’t acknowledge other methods when what they are doing stops working.’
Sarah plans to head to the clinic soon and hopes they can cure her or at least reduce the cancer in her liver.
And while she is excited for the chance to try something different she is also terrified of leaving the country.
‘I have never left my kids for so long, I am always with them,’ she said.
‘I plan my naps after chemo so that time with them after school is the priority, I am trying really hard to be there for homework and all the fun stuff.’
The young girls always ask me if I am going to die. If cancer can kill. I tell them it can and it might but I am trying really hard to fight it and be strong, we are very open but in an age appropriate way.
Sarah has a close-knit family and knows her kids will be fine with their grandmother, especially if it means she can be their mum for a little longer.
‘They will be able to FaceTime me everyday from my mum’s which will be a huge help, and we live two minutes from her so they are very close.’
Sarah said she would like bowel cancer tests to be given to Australians from the age of 30 – after hearing stories from lots of men and women her own age.
‘I am not the only one in my age group who has had this cancer, and if I had caught it early I might have had a better chance,’ she said.
Sarah’s bowel cancer timeline:
February – Starts getting night sweats, visits doctor, told she probably has low iron levels, given an iron transfusion
Mid-March – Finds lump in her stomach, has an ultrasound and is told it is ‘just fatty tissue’
April 9 – Another doctor sends her to hospital because she ‘looked very unwell’
April 11 – Sarah is diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer
April 12-30 – Sarah has specialist tests including a colonoscopy, scans and bowel surgery
May 17 – Starts chemotherapy on a 12-cycle program – she has now done 23 cycles
August 6 – PET scan shows the growths on Sarah’s liver have been greatly reduced by the aggressive chemo
August 10 – Chemo reduced, changed as a result of the success and because of an allergic reaction to the medicine
November 5 – PET scan shows the tumours have come back, covering 70 per cent of her liver
March – Family set up GoFundMe to raise money for Sarah to go to Thailand for her ‘last chance at a cure’
Sarah was left frustrated when chemo stopped working for her
‘If you are over 50 and have the kit in your bathroom then just do it, forget about embarrassment, it could save your life.’
Sarah now knows kits are available at the chemist for $35, she says she ‘definitely’ would have used one if she had known they existed.
She has also thanked those who have supported her GoFundMe.
‘I didn’t think I had many people who cared about me. I am from Dampier up north and I think the fact it is a small community everyone helps each other out. People from primary school donated $1,000 to me and I haven’t seen them since school.
‘It is absolutely overwhelming, I am so grateful.’