It's impossible for Adrian Witcomb, 56, a procurement consultant, to equate the dangerously ill woman before him with the vibrant life partner who, until September when her tumour was found, was so stylish and full of energy he jokingly dubbed her and their daughters “The Kardashians.”
Since doctors diagnosed Sarah, 50, an IT sales expert, with a grade four glioblastoma – an inoperable and fast growing cancerous tumour – he has been alarmed by her rapid decline, which has seen her suffer a seizure and a bleed on the brain.
Now desperate to raise money for private, specialist treatment, Adrian – who cares for Sarah at home in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, helped by their daughters, internal recruiter Issobella, 20, and student Sofia, 18 – said: “Our lives have been turned completely upside down.
“All we can focus on is getting Sarah better, but over the last three months, I’ve watched her health decline. I’m fearful of the results we’re due to get after Christmas, when they will rescan her to see the size of the tumour following this round of treatment.”
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Adrian and Sarah’s love story began 22 years ago, when she went on a weekend trip to Birmingham. “I’m from Birmingham originally and Sarah was up from Essex on a girls’ trip," Adrian explains.
“We bumped into each other at a bar and had a whirlwind romance. Within 12 weeks, we were engaged and within a year, we were married and had our wedding in Barbados.
“Two kids later, the rest is history.”
But in September 2021, Sarah began to suffer from severe headaches. Adrian said: “She was experiencing really bad headaches all day long and, after a couple of weeks, she went to the doctor, who suspected it was a bad ear infection.
“But a couple of days later, Sarah fell from the top to the bottom of the stairs. She was black and blue, so I called for an ambulance and she was taken to A&E. There, medics thought she had labyrinthitis and gave her some antibiotics.”
Adrian began to panic when the medication did not work and he noticed a sudden deterioration in Sarah’s health. “The next day, I phoned for paramedics again because I knew Sarah wasn’t right," he explained.
“They came to check her over and decided to take her in for further tests.”
At Worcester Hospital, results revealed Sarah had a brain tumour, news which devastated them both. “She was referred to the oncology department at Coventry University Hospital where a biopsy was arranged.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening. Our family’s life was turned upside down overnight.”
The biopsy confirmed Adrian’s worst fears and Sarah was diagnosed with grade four glioblastoma. “They started her on a high dose of chemo, before lowering it and adding radiotherapy to her treatment plan.
“She’s halfway through this round of treatment, so we won’t know the results until the new year but, so far, all we have seen is a massive decline in her.”
Adrian added: “Two weeks ago, she suffered a seizure and a bleed on the brain. Since then, she hasn’t been able to walk or stand.
“She sleeps a lot and when she’s awake she can’t read the messages on her phone, so I have to help her make sense of them. I feel very numb. It’s incredibly difficult to see your wife in that condition.”
The diagnosis has also been deeply distressing for the couple’s daughters. Adrian said: “My poor youngest witnessed the seizure, which was very traumatic.
“My eldest and I have been Sarah’s primary care givers at home. We take it in turns to either work remotely at home or look after Sarah.”
He added: “Sarah, Issobella and Sofia are very close, so it’s really tough for them to see their mum like this.
“I always nicknamed them the Kardashians, I’m definitely outnumbered in the house. They’re my entire world and it’s been very difficult. Our dining room has been turned into a makeshift hospital ward, with a hospital bed, a wheelchair and a commode.”
Adrian and Issobella also take turns sleeping downstairs to care for Sarah during the night. A family friend has now launched a fundraising page, to help with finances, as Adrian begins to look at alternative treatment in the private sector.
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He said: “I’m incredibly grateful to our friend, Earl Hibbert, for setting up the page, which is currently at £16,302. The goal is to raise £40,000 to enable us to look into alternative treatment such as immunotherapy and proton beam therapy.
“We’re living with this dark cloud over us. We do all the tasks that we need to do in order to care for Sarah but, all the while, we’re worried out of our minds about her.
“All we want is for Sarah to get better, but she’s in a bad way. We’re throwing the kitchen sink at this to get her better. It’s all we can focus on right now.
“I’m not normally one to ask for help, but we desperately need the funds so we can afford to start looking at alternative treatment. We’re going to fight this illness alongside Sarah and give it everything we have.”
To donate to Sarah’s fundraiser, visit www.gofundme.com/f/sarahs-fight-against-the-big-c
Additional reporting, PA