Sarah Newton of Galena, Illinois has been dealing with bile duct cancer since her diagnosis in July 2020. She has endured four-plus months of chemo, two procedures involving implanting Y90 in both lobes of her liver, and is currently taking gene therapy medication. Through it all, Sarah continues to display her infectious smile and stays positive. “I am receiving treatment at the University of Iowa with Dr. Pashtoon Kasi and really feel good about my medical team. I know I have lived a good life and will continue to embrace it.”
Sarah learned of the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation three months after her diagnosis thanks to a chance encounter with a stranger. “He said I see you are dealing with cancer. Do you mind if I ask what type?” She told him bile duct cancer. “This man was dealing with the same cancer! He told me about the Foundation and said I have to look it up. I never got his name. I just knew he was driving back to Freeport, Illinois, 40 miles west of Galena, from an appointment at the Mayo Clinic.” Sarah continued “I immediately went to the website and joined the private Facebook groups. I loved the support others have provided and was impressed by the Foundation’s resources. I knew I liked my oncologist. I found it reassuring that he was listed on their specialist map.”
Soon, an idea to help others dealing with this rare cancer began to form. Carter had participated in RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa, in the past, a 7-day, 450-mile bike ride across Iowa. Carter and Sarah thought this ride, with its anticipated 15,000 participants, would be a great way to raise awareness and money for the Foundation. Carter explained, “The CCF has been a great benefit to Sarah so giving back seems the natural and proper thing to do....so that others will benefit.”
Carter set up a fundraising page with TeamCCF and sent personal emails to all his friends. His daughter in Grand Rapids, Michigan, promoted the fundraiser through her social media. Very quickly the donations started to come in. Carter bumped up his goal from $2,000 to $5,000, then to $10,000 and finally $15,000. “My next goal was to see how far the goal can be exceeded.”
Carter prepared for the bike ride by designing and printing his own bike jersey for himself and five of his friends who agreed to wear the jersey at least one day during RAGBRAI. He printed business cards to hand out and had lots of awareness wristbands for anyone who wanted one.
On Saturday, July 24, Carter set out with friends for Le Mars, Iowa, the start of RAGBRAI. He was very excited for the ride and excited to meet others. “A grandfather and grandson had joined us. This was the seventh RAGBRAI in which the two of them had participated….and the grandson is only 13 and last year’s RAGBRAI was cancelled! I was telling the grandfather about my efforts to raise awareness and money for the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. A strange look came across his face and he said, “My brother-in-law was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma a couple of years ago…my wife is going to want to see your business card.”
To date, Carter and Sarah’s fundraising efforts raised $27,622.83! “Doing this fundraiser has been a great experience for Sarah and me. We are blown away by the support. I’m indebted,” Carter said.
Within a week of the completed fundraiser, Sarah sent an email to the Foundation, asking if she can donate to their silent auction. “Galena is a big tourist town, and I thought I might ask some people to donate a few days – hotel, meals, retail gift card, etc.” There’s even a pontoon boat ride thanks to Capt. Carter and his first mate, Sarah. Carter said of his wife “Sarah is the most generous person I know. She gives of her time, talent, and treasure and doesn't know the word, ‘no.’ It's not in her vocabulary. . .when it comes to helping others.”
Sarah and Carter tell us how grateful they are to the town of Galena, friends, family, strangers, warriors, and the CCF. The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation is indebted to people like Sarah and Carter who choose to continuously pay it forward and help others.
"Doing this fundraiser has been a great experience for Sarah and I. We are blown away by the support..."