Born in San Jose, Calif., on Sept. 14, 1989, Sarah Jane Adicoff died in her parents' arms on Jan. 20, 2011, of complications from cancer treatment after a five-year battle with the disease.
Sarah sang with gusto from the age of 15 months and carried her musicality and ability to remember any lyric to high school and community theater productions such as "The Boys from Syracuse," "Pirates of Penzance" and "Hair." She enjoyed playing soccer, skiing and swimming competitively for many years, eventually concentrating on swimming year-round with her wonderful coaches and peers on the 5B Swim Team.
School was one of Sarah's passions, and she was lucky to attend Mulberry School in San Jose, where she formed deep friendships with both teachers and kids, learned to work out problems and mediate between others, enjoyed learning and participated in many creative projects. From the second grade, Sarah organized her own parties and made her own Halloween costumes. True to form, in 2004, Sarah organized a well-attended reunion of her fifth-grade class in Sun Valley, where the kids played hard, hung out and made good use of the infamous "Adiconner" costume box to produce skits and other hilarity. After moving to Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2000, Sarah attended Wood River Middle School and graduated from The Community School in December 2007. She was selected for the Laura S. Flood Foundation Award and received a National Merit Letter of Commendation.
Rhabdomyosarcoma interrupted Sarah's life when she was 16, an age normally marked by transition and separation. Her treatment hindered this process, diminishing her independence and causing her to miss much of her schooling and regular young adult life. Cancer took much of her strength, her singing voice and, she felt, some of her ability to think and remember. Nonetheless, her treatment afforded her some longer periods of relative "health" in which she was able to pursue her studies and travel extensively with various family members and friends. While in her hospital bed, Sarah received her Stanford University acceptance notice. She managed to attend five quarters over the next three years, most recently embracing archeology, theater acting, stage management and psychology classes. The lifelong Stanford fan had just experienced her best quarter, enhanced by great dorm mates, interesting studies, fun social activities and Stanford's Orange Bowl victory.
Sarah's caretakers have been amazed by her resiliency and accomplishments throughout her treatments. She retained her playful sarcasm, spunky appreciation for irony and love of word play and debate. Family was very important to her; she supported her brothers unswervingly and loved them unconditionally. She valued her Camp Rainbow Gold family immensely and enjoyed counseling there and at local theater camps. She was realistic but ever positive about her condition and what she could accomplish, and she fed her love of adventure through zip-lining in Costa Rica and riding the luge in Austria so fast that her hair was flying, as well as through more traditional forms of travel. We will miss Sarah's wry humor, grace, enthusiasm for discussion, love of movies and theater, and her keen observation and interest in the animal world.
Sarah is survived by her loving parents, Sam Adicoff and Sue Conner; younger brothers, Willie and Jake; grandparents, Arnold and Ruth Adicoff and William and Marilyn Conner; uncle Charlie (Anne Simpson) Conner; aunts, Cathy (Ted Furst) Conner, Jill Conner, Annie (Mark Schneider) Adicoff and Carrie Adicoff; cousins, Alison and Madeline Conner, Rebekkah and Ariel Adicoff, and Kyle and Kurt Schneider; as well as many close friends in California and the Wood River Valley.
A memorial is being planned for the Sun Valley, Idaho, area in February, and later this spring in the Stanford area, details to be published in this newspaper. If you would like to send a personal memory of Sarah, please send it to Box 6044, Ketchum, ID 83340.
Sarah's death is an illustration of the appalling lack of improvement over the past 35 years in survival rates among 15- to 40-year-olds with cancer. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested for research to the Sarah Jane Adicoff endowment for research at Seattle Children's Hospital, or Fred Barr's basic research laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, or to one of the wonderful organizations from which she benefited greatly: Camp Rainbow Gold, Idaho Make a Wish Foundation or Ronald McDonald House.