East Coast Memorial Gathering

InviteDear Friends,

We have been deeply touched by the outpouring of love and support from all corners of the globe, and we invite those of you in the northeast to join us in our hometown on Saturday, August 2nd, to celebrate the life of our treasured Abby. In order to track the number of people attending, we are asking friends to send us their e-mail addresses (I will then send you the Paperless Post invite seen above). Please send an e-mail to freemandan99@gmail.com if you’d like to attend.

We will have another memorial in the Los Angeles area later this summer. We hope you can join us at one of these events.

Overwhelmed by love

Dear  Friends,

We are simply stunned by the incredible outpouring of love, remembrances, prayers, best wishes, photos, and giving you have sent our way. There have been nearly 30,000 visits to this website in just the last three days and hundreds of beautiful comments. This is in addition to the many hundreds of incredible expressions of love and support that have come to each member of Abby’s family through e-mail, Facebook, snail-mail, text message, and phone call. We knew she was loved by many, but this has been beyond expectation. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

How You Can Help

At present, we are engaged in a time of stillness and quiet. Merlin has made it a priority to begin trying to find a “new normal” for himself and his children. As much as we wish the world would stop, life does – and must – go on.

Many of you have asked how you can help and when a memorial will take place. In accordance with Abby’s wishes, we will be planning a celebration of her life for those closest to her here in the Los Angeles area in the coming weeks and on the east coast later this summer. Given the enormous number of people she has touched, it will not be possible to have everyone present, but we will be sure to document the event so that all can share in remembrance of her light. For something you can do right now, there is a Facebook Group for sharing photos, stories, videos, prayers and other memories and we invite you to participate.

As we grapple with this loss in our lives, we are so grateful for the outpouring of care and support, and we also ask you to please not visit Merlin and the children unless invited at this time. Please also be patient with the time it may take Merlin to return calls, texts, and e-mails. Abby will always be with us, and we will be sure to create a space and time for her loved ones to come together to celebrate her.

Until then, we have set up some other suggestions of how you can help on this page.

Thank you once again for your love, understanding, and support.

~The Freeman and Larsen families

“Trampotine” time with daddy from summer, 2013.

We remember Abby

Abs in the Alps

Abigail Stearns Freeman, December 8, 1976 – June 1, 2014

We remember Abby as beautiful, inside and out. She lit up the room. She connected with you. She had high intelligence, high elegance, and high climbs. Most of all, she was loving and caring.

She was that way all her life. Her passion and joy as a friend, performer, wife, and mother never diminished. Over her last year, she fought her disease courageously, and suffered terribly. Through it all she continued her loving attention to those around her, with true grace.

Not that there weren’t times of intense fear. The type of aggressive, chemo resistant breast cancer she had is still rarely stoppable, particularly if not detected early, which tragically was the case, due to initial misdiagnosis as swelling from nursing. By the time she got a biopsy, her prognosis was extremely poor. Nevertheless she and the rest of us searched for a way forward, to maintain hope. She kept wishing, she said, for a happy ending to this story, wanting with all her heart, as all of us did, to beat this beast so she could continue to be there for Merlin, Owen and Julia. As each setback dimmed her prospects, she told us to “keep calm and carry on”, and ultimately wanted us to accept, as she did, that even though it wasn’t fair, her present journey would end not in the natural course, but prematurely. Bearing the unbearable, we are carrying on for our precious family, but with sorrow beyond words. We miss her.

Abby felt that prior to her cancer she had had a wonderful life—growing up in a warm family and caring community who supported her in pursuing her career dreams; a marriage of true love; a legacy of two beautiful, bright children; a record of reaching for and finding an outer edge of artistic adventure and accomplishment all over the world. She said she didn’t have a bucket list. She believed there would be something next for her, and whimsically said she would like to return as a dolphin because they are so sleek and strong, and play so joyfully and freely in the waves.

Near the end I asked her why she had chosen to be a theatrical performer. She said she loved the expressiveness of it, and the whole physical and mental process of creating a production with her teammates. She recalled that as a young teenager she would dance in her room for hours to Madonna’s music. And then she recalled the time she woke up one night terrified at finding thousands of tiny spiders on the ceiling, and that I had used a vacuum cleaner to get rid of them.

For each of us there will always be such heartwarming recollections of Abby in our lives. How deeply we loved her, and always will. When I told Abby that her light was shining, that her love, her goodness, and her spirit would carry on in all of us, she put her hand on my arm and added: “Forever”.

– Jack Freeman

On the path

In good handsAbby chose to start home hospice last week, and has been resting, snuggling with her children and Merlin, and staying as comfortable as possible with the help of wonderful nurses and the care of family and close friends. The cancer continues to spread, and in the last day or so she has begun sleeping more and speaking less. The time for long conversations and intense goodbyes is past, but when we have a few moments with her awake, we remind her of the love and care everyone has been sending, and give her hugs. The children and Elsa the puppy (now, to no one’s surprise, a permanent member of the family) keep the house lively and make it impossible for us to fall into despair. And the support of so many friends, colleagues, neighbors, and family members has been a balm to the soul.

– Cynthia Freeman

I prayed to my gods, but they were sleeping on that day

Abby and Wia readingIn consultation with her physicians at UCLA, Abby has decided to stop the clinical trial, which was causing a whole lot of suffering for her and a whole lot of not working on the cancer. We also recently learned that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in her chest, which is causing serious lung problems.

In this very hardest of times, the many ways that family and friends and neighbors have been helping are such blessings, and have come into sharp focus as what love and life are all about. The already-amazing husband who has grown into an even better partner, father, and caregiver. The parents who pick up their adored and adoring grandchildren at school and keep the house stocked with groceries and the doctors on their toes. The “food fairies” who drop off meals prepared with skill and love. The friends around the world – some of them flat broke – who nonetheless send money for housecleaning. The grandfathers – ages 95 and 96 – who provide all kinds of support from across the country. The brother who spends his weekends letting the nieces and nephews hit him with boppers and jump on him in the backyard trampoline. The high school classmates who organize fundraisers for breast cancer research. The old friends who fly in for some quality time. The locals who help with playdates. The list goes on and on.

Abby is not feeling up to much writing or visiting, but she is reading everything you send and appreciates the many memories, expressions of love, and healing wishes you have shared. (Note from her ferociously protective sister:  she is too polite to tell you directly, but if you believe that she is at fault for her cancer or its progression in some way, keep it to yourself. I promise you it is not helpful.)

We will keep you posted on next steps in this journey as we know them. Also, this happened:

Elsa hiding

 Elsa shoe nap

Elsa water

Meet Elsa Freeman Larsen. Because what’s the fun of having the toughest year of your life if you don’t get a puppy? She’s a foster dog for now, but is fast wriggling her way into everyone’s hearts and all the nooks and crannies in Abby’s backyard…

-Cynthia Freeman

Hello chemo, my old friend (ugh)

Merlin's birthday Abs reading with girlies

After celebrating Merlin’s 45th birthday  and a family get-together for our Dad’s 70th, during which the only photo I managed to snap was this shot of Abby reading to the girlies, Abby entered a clinical trial at UCLA at the beginning of April. The study drug is a kinase inhibitor, combined with Cisplatin chemo.

Abby has been taking every possible moment to enjoy time with family and friends, hike, do yoga, and get her strength back before starting this next round of treatment, despite coping with rib pain and severe coughing, which seem to be after-effects of the radiation.

Thanks again to everyone for your emails, texts, Facebook shout-outs and help in SO many ways. With Abby likely to experience some rough side effects as the chemo treatment kicks in, we’re opening up another round of sign-ups for housecleaning support (best mental health intervention ever!).

Click here if you’re able to sponsor a session: Team Abby: Operation Sane Mom

Yours with love and in gratitude…

– Cynthia Freeman

The Rock in Her Life

Over the past year, since we first learned of Abby’s condition, much has changed. But one thing has not – her husband and life partner, Merlin Larsen. This challenge is difficult for all of us, Abby most of all, but he is the one that has most supported her through this trial, going on countless visits to doctors and hospitals, taking huge care of their children, working whenever he can to continue to support themselves financially, and more. He moved a 500 pound hot tub on his own over 100 feet and over uneven terrain from a neighbor’s house. He took Owen on a father-son trip to Joshua Tree. He taught himself welding and metal cutting and built a home workshop in order to start a business at home so that he could spend more time with Abby and the kids. He has dealt with my hovering, ever present family with the utmost patience and goodwill.

Abby could not have chosen a better dude. He is the rock in her life, and we are lucky to call him our brother, son-in-law, and friend. Thank you, Merlin, today on your 45th birthday, and for what we all hope will be many more years together.

photo 2

The two lovers spent last weekend healing at the Esalen Institute. They sent us this selfie from Morro Bay.

photo 1

“Oh, I just taught myself how to cut metal so I could make this for you. No big deal.”

owen_smore

S’mores in Joshua Tree

  – Dan Freeman

Five down, two to go…

Abby is grinding through the chemo-boosted radiation with her usual toughness and aplomb, and in good spirits with the end of this treatment (two weeks left) now in sight. The next step will likely be immunotherapy of some kind, and our Dad has been coordinating a huge research effort to identify the best clinical trials, with the help of some family friends who are cancer docs and epidemiologists. We are so grateful for the village of support that has gathered around in this time of need!

The end of THREE WEEKS of school vacation is also in sight, which will give Abby and Merlin – not to mention every other grown-up with a kid in LAUSD – some much-needed time to rest and recover. We were so happy to spend the holidays quietly together as a family, and see friends and playmates as well. We also took the kids ice skating:

skating

Yes, it was 75 and sunny at the time. Friends in the frozen north (south, east…ok, everywhere but California), try not to hate us…

Once more unto the breach…

We celebrated Abby’s birthday this past weekend with cake and playtime.

The little girls dressed her up in paper chains:

156

The boys helped by getting out every single toy in the house just in case anyone wanted to play with them:

152
And Papa Jack and Unka Dan braved the wilds of Chuck E Cheese on a rainy Saturday so the boys could play the slots, the girls could nap, and the rest of us could sit on the couch and sip tea. Merlin had to work but Josh fixed him a dinner care package of Chinese beef ribs, tofu and veggies, and various other yumminess.

A few weeks of relative normalcy have been great – especially with the latest round of treatment starting this week. Abby will be having radiation five days a week for seven weeks. Her medical team has also recommended weekly chemotherapy that will boost the radiation’s effects. This is of course a total bummer and we are all keeping our fingers crossed that the side effects will not be as bad as they were with the systemic chemo.

Huge thanks and shout-outs to the local families who have been dropping off delicious meals and the out-of-town friends who are sponsoring grocery gift cards and weekly housecleaning. All of you have made this difficult journey so much better with your practical generosity, thoughtful words, and love beaming across time and space!

Good times. No, really!


What’s more fun than a playground full of preschoolers? Family and friends gathered to celebrate Julia’s third birthday on Sunday, complete with treasure hunts, healthy snacks, and Papa Jack reprising his role as The Monster Who Chases Small Squealing Children. Abby has been recovering well from surgery and enjoyed hanging out with guests and kiddos of all ages while sporting what could now be called a “statement haircut.”