Sarah Delashmit had a lot of problems – deeply devastating medical problems. She also had a lot of identities, fake stories, husbands, children, and careers. For two decades, she told friends, coworkers, and strangers that she had everything from leukemia to muscular dystrophy, stage 4 breast cancer to genetic disorders.
She told people she’d suffered multiple miscarriages or was trapped in an abusive relationship. Obviously, she wasn’t telling everyone that she suffered from all of these things. She somehow kept all of these stories straight and who she’d told them to for decades.
A new podcast from iHeartPodcasts, “Sympathy Pains,” is the strange story of Sarah Delashmit. Medical journalist and chart-topping “Dr. Death” podcast host Laura Beil takes us through Sarah’s 20 years of conning people out of…sympathy? Well, also money. She conned charities and nonprofits out of money, benefits, and other items. But, all of that didn’t seem to be her main goal. So, what was?
In this new podcast, Beil speaks with a handful of people who knew Sarah (or thought they knew Sarah). From roommates to camp counselors, charity volunteers and people who actually lived with the diseases and disorders she claimed to have, Sarah couldn’t seem to stop lying.
In the first episode, “Sympathy Pains” speaks with one of Sarah’s four former suitemates, who is going by the pseudonym Emily for this podcast. She was a sophomore and Sarah was a freshman when Sarah entered the suitemate’s common room and announced that she had been diagnosed with leukemia.
They were shocked, but supportive, with Sarah’s other roommate breaking down entirely. Emily recalls watching A Walk to Remember with the girls, surprised that Sarah and the distraught roommate would want to watch such a devastating movie also about a young woman with leukemia.
Emily also remembers when they had planned to shave Sarah’s head, since she was going to lose it anyway during chemo. But at the last moment, Sarah backed out. Sarah’s roommate did shave her head, though, in an act of solidarity for her dear friend.
Despite this, Emily agreed to live with Sarah again the next year. Then, one day in July, Emily got a call from Sarah saying she’d been in a horrible car crash. She said she’d needed her back fused and she was currently in a wheelchair, unsure if she’d ever be able to walk again. When they returned to school, Sarah was in a back brace and bound to a manual wheelchair.
The end of Emily’s story is shocking. Sarah and Emily fell out as roommates tend to do, and Emily moved out. She didn’t see Sarah all that much around campus until a few weeks later when Emily walked into the dining hall and saw a sight she never thought she’d see. There was Sarah, standing at the top of the stairs, no back brace, no wheelchair. Just standing there. Emily walked right by her and has never seen her again.
She tells Beil that she has since realized that she and her roommates were simply a warmup for Sarah. She found out later that this strange, lying girl would turn into somone much more sinister and hurtful. Beil tells us this is the reason that Emily doesn’t want “Sympathy Pains” to use her real name — she doesn’t want Sarah to find her. She hopes Sarah has forgotten about her, and she will never have to deal with the master manipulator again.
Emily was right that she and her roommates were a trial run. On “Sympathy Pains,” Beil tells us the extent of Sarah’s trickery. From pretending to have muscular dystrophy and attending a camp for people with disabilities, to volunteers at charities who brought Sarah into their home, the stories just get wilder. Hear this wild story on the new podcast “Sympathy Pains.”