by Jenna Bratcher

August 22, 2021

Jenna Bratcher is StyleBlueprint Nashville’s Associate Editor and Lead Writer. The East Coast native moved to Nashville 14 years ago, by way of Los Angeles. She is a foodie through and through and enjoys exploring the local restaurant scene bite by bite.
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The bond between twins is often extraordinary, but Sarah Sharp and Cathey Stoner have taken their bond to new heights. After battling choriocarcinoma, an aggressive and rare form of ovarian cancer, Sarah was devastated to learn she would need a hysterectomy, forcing her to give up dreams of continuing to grow her family. That’s when her sister, Cathey, stepped in. Now, Cathey is giving birth to Sarah’s biological son thanks to fertility miracles and a lot of love and selflessness. They bring their first-hand experience to Talk to Me Sister, a podcast that speaks to their journey and helps other women through surrogacy, women’s health issues, and beyond. Please welcome twin sisters Sarah Sharp and Cathey Stoner.

Talk to Me Sister podcast hosts, Sarah Sharp and Cathey Stoner

Meet this week’s FACES of Nashville, Sarah Sharp and Cathey Stoner, sisters, women’s health advocates and hosts of the Talk to Me Sister podcast. Image: Katelyn Brown

Sarah, can you tell us how you were diagnosed?

Sarah: Right after Charlotte’s first birthday — she’s my daughter who I carried naturally — I was diagnosed with choriocarcinoma. I’d never heard of it, and I was floored; a cancer diagnosis wasn’t on my radar whatsoever. I was in and out of my OB’s office with what I thought was a miscarriage. They thought I had an ectopic pregnancy, so they said they might have to give me a hysterectomy. That’s when the first seed was planted. Cathey was with me, and she said, “If they take your uterus, I’ll have your babies.”

We come from a big family, and she knew I wanted siblings for my children. I wanted many babies, so the thought of having a hysterectomy after my first child was devastating. They didn’t actually give me a hysterectomy at that moment. A week later, after they sent the tissue to the pathologist, they called me into the office and gave me a cancer diagnosis. I was beyond shocked — nonfunctioning, fearful, and really confused. Choriocarcinoma is a rare cancer that you can get from placental tissue, and not a lot of women know that they can get cancer from a pregnancy. I had a tumor in my uterus that I’d been growing since the birth of my daughter.

Sarah and Cathey, Talk to Me Sister hosts, side-by-side, wearing white

“We were focused on getting me healthy,” Sarah says of the moment when her sister offered to carry her baby. “I think it was Cathey’s way of being able to contribute to my peace that day.” Image: Jessica Amerson

How did the cancer diagnosis lead to the idea of surrogacy?

Sarah: I did pretty intense chemotherapy for a little under a year, and then I was pronounced cancer-free in December 2018. At my first routine checkup in 2019, I was excited to put it behind me and have my hair grow back. I was coming out of devastation and very weak from the chemo. They came into the room and told me that not only had my cancer come back, but my tumor was larger than it was the day I was diagnosed. That rocked me. It shattered my faith. It hadn’t even been that long since I’d had my last treatment, so that scared me. They switched my treatment plan, and I started over with chemotherapy. That’s when they said, “We mentioned a hysterectomy when you were first diagnosed, but you’re young, and we were trying to save your uterus. We know women have beaten this and gone on to have another baby, and we wanted that to be you, but it’s not going to be. We need to take your uterus immediately.”

So, I found myself in a deja vu moment, a year and a half later, prepping for a hysterectomy with Cathey by my side. She said again, “I’ll have your babies.” I was grieving for my husband and Charlotte; I knew that growing my family wasn’t going to be possible anymore, and I never thought in a million years that there would be other ways to grow my family. Now, on the other side of things, I feel incredibly blessed. When we’re in moments of pain, it’s hard to see out of it. On the other side, I see all the seeds being planted, and I see the Lord’s hand, and Cathey’s heart, and our whole journey.

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Cathey: I don’t know why I said it the first time. It was comic relief, I guess, and we laughed. We joked that we could write a book called My Twin Had My Twins. It still feels like a wild dream. We were in the emergency room — Sarah had to have emergency surgery — so it was really my way of saying, “I’ve got your back. I love you.” I’m a dietitian, and my specialty is in women’s health, so I work with many fertility patients and women on different journeys to grow their families. I’ve worked with people going through a hysterectomy, so it was part of my vocabulary. There were also nine or 10 months between when Sarah first had symptoms and when she actually had a hysterectomy, so it had time to marinate in my spirit and heart. By the time she went in for her hysterectomy, my husband and I had more of a serious conversation about it. Going into that surgery, if there was a flicker of hope for her that this could be something that we could do together, then I thought it would be an easier pill to swallow.

Anybody who walks through cancer with someone really close to them knows there’s a feeling of helplessness. There’s not much you can do except be there, send a meal, or bring a blanket. You want to help so much — especially when your twin sister is battling cancer. She was really sick that time around, and we didn’t know if she would get better, so it was an actionable thing I could do. It felt like a glimmer of hope for all of us.

Black and white photo of Sarah Sharp an Cathey Stoner, holding Cathey's pregnant belly

The two couples, who’ve known each other since high school, had their first real conversation about surrogacy over breakfast one morning. “We laughed and cried,” says Sarah. “It kind of gave Richard and me permission to accept that gift,” says Sarah. Image: Katelyn Brown

How did you find out that the pregnancy took?

Cathey: In December of 2020, we did the embryo transfer — just me and Sarah. Richard was in the waiting room because I could only have one person back there with me. That was an incredible day because it was in the same hospital we went to for all of Sarah’s cancer infusions. To go in for a positive, healing reason was a full-circle moment for all of us. We found out about 10 days later that their pregnancy had stuck. Sarah was in Target and dropped all her stuff and drove to my house. We hugged and cried. We’re still on cloud nine!

Cathey and Sarah, smiling at each other and holding Cathey 's baby bump

“Sarah and Richard treated us to a babymoon,” says Cathey. “We went to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun. It was just the four of us, so we really got to soak up this season. It was a magical time.” Image: Katelyn Brown

Tell me about your podcast, Talk to Me Sister.

Cathey: It’s a fun way for us to share our story. We wanted to share it because we’ve learned so much. Both of us are podcast listeners, and I literally Googled how to start a podcast. People connect with us who’ve listened to our story and are also surrogates or cancer survivors. Some people have said, “I thought my family was done and I didn’t have options, and you’ve given us hope.” It’s really sweet. Both of us are advocates for women’s health — that’s my career, and of course, it’s Sarah’s passion because of her health journey, so the podcast has been a way for us to highlight some of the women’s health topics that we feel are important.

Sarah: Cathey is a perfect person to host the podcast with me. She was already in the women’s health arena, and then I have the personal story, so we have so much to talk about! We’re both excited for season two and connecting with even more incredible women with strong survival stories. Women’s health is such an important topic. You can listen to our podcast on Apple and Spotify.

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Talk to Me Sister podcast hosts, Sarah Sharp and Cathey Stoner

“I love our podcast,” says Sarah. “We’ve played to our strengths, and that’s gone hand-in-hand with the pregnancy, too.” Image: Jessica Amerson

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Sarah: “Pain doesn’t last forever.” That’s such a simple statement, and it’s hard to believe when you’re in it, but it’s true. No matter how hard life knocks you down, it’s surprising how sweet it can be again.

Cathey: “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” It’s an encouragement to laugh and find the silver lining. Everything can be overwhelming when you’re in the moment, so have fun. It’s a glass-half-full mindset that I think came after we’d been through so much.

Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?

Cathey: Earpods. I listen to music and podcasts and have my own oasis — also, coffee and exercise.

Sarah: My music and podcast playlists. It centers me and lets me zone out. My bathtub — a bubble bath and a glass of wine a few times a week is a prescription for me. And my juicer. If someone took that away, I would be sad … and probably not as healthy as I am today! Also, I think both of us should say the beach. Our spirits are in the sea.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Sarah and Cathey!

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